How Handoff Between AirPort Base Stations Works

Last Updated: Jan 29, 2023

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In this post, I’ll explain how handoff works in a network with multiple Apple AirPort Extreme base stations.

With the influx of connected devices in modern households, good internet connectivity has become increasingly important. Many devices are pretty useless when they are not connected to the outside world. When that happens, productivity suffers. Just think about how frustrating it is trying to work while on an airplane with a bad internet service.

Shop mentioned products

  • Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station (Amazon)

I work from home and heavily rely on the internet and phone service. Unfortunately, I have very weak LTE connectivity where I live, but since AT&T started offering Wi-Fi Calling, that has become a non-issue. As the name implies, Wi-Fi Calling relies on Wireless Lan and the internet connection it is hooked up to.

Distance may be good for the heart, but it weakens WiFi signal. Same goes for walls, doors, appliances, neighbors’ networks, metal, water (water heaters and fish tanks alike), dogs, anything solid. When you and your router are at opposite ends of your house, there are too many obstacles in between. Your WiFi signal simply can’t make it that far.

That’s why I invested in a business-class uplink from Comcast and 4 of Apple’s AirPort Extreme base stations that I spread out across the house. For the best possible performance, I connected all AirPort Base Stations using CAT6 Ethernet cables. As a result, I can enjoy a strong wireless signal anywhere in the house, while Comcast takes care of the rest.

Handoff between AirPort Extreme Base Stations
My AirPort Extreme Network

The Need for Multiple Base Stations

Wireless routers and access points offer higher throughput and better coverage with every new generation. Unfortunately, they still have to work within the laws of physics, and thus the area a single access point can cover is limited.

Electromagnetic waves have different shapes and behaviors at different frequencies. In general, lower-frequency waves like AM radio can travel much farther than higher-frequency waves like light. That’s why the 5 GHz waves used by the newest WiFi standard (802.11ac), though capable of transmitting more data at higher speeds, aren’t as effective over longer distances as the older 2.4 GHz standard.

We have a ranch-style house, and there is no way that a single AirPort Base Station could provide enough coverage. Using so-called repeaters or range extenders is not a good solution either. Similar to range extenders, multiple AirPort base stations suffer from performance degradation as well when connected wirelessly (instead of wired). Apple states the following in its knowledge base article about extending the range of your wireless network by adding extra Wi-Fi base stations:

In the case of a wirelessly extended network, throughput may be reduced to less than 60 percent of that of a single device. The general rule is to keep the Wi-Fi network as simple as possible. You can accomplish this by using the minimum number of Wi-Fi base stations required to service the physical network area and by using Ethernet wherever possible.

That’s why I decided to deploy 4 AirPort Extreme Base Stations and connect them directly via Ethernet to prevent performance degradation.

Handoff between AirPort Extreme Base Stations
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way.

How Handoff Between AirPort Base Stations Works

Having multiple base stations is fine but can devices transparently handoff from one base station to another?

Handoff between AirPort Extreme Base Stations
Apple recommended setup

For example, my main base station is in my office (AirPort Extreme Office), connected to the Comcast modem. If my iPhone is connected to this base station and I leave the office and go to the family room, where another base station is located, would the iPhone automatically handoff to the base station with the stronger signal?

The short answer is yes!

Most modern Macs and iOS devices support roaming protocols, including 802.1r802.1k and 892.1v and thus can handoff to base stations with stronger signals. I have made the following experience, using devices we use at home:

  • iPhone 6S Plus: hands off immediately
  • iPhone 6: hands off after a few minutes
  • iPad Air 2: hands off immediately
  • 12” MacBook: hands off immediately

Bottom line, handoff works very reliably when roaming in the house.

Handoff Issues

I have discovered at least one case, where handoff doesn’t work reliably or not at all. When the base station a device is connected to (base station A) reboots, the device connects to the next base station (base station B) available. After the reboot, I would expect the device to re-connect to the base station A, but it doesn’t. So it seems like, if a base station becomes unavailable, it is no longer available for handoff.

Handoff between AirPort Extreme Base Stations
Rebooted AirPort Extreme Office and 1h later my iMac still didn’t reconnect

That explains why my Apple TV sometimes stays connected to a far-away base station after I power cycle the base station it is supposed to be connected to.

Eero vs. AirPort Express

Handoff and eero
Image by eero

I recently discovered an innovative device called Eero. They claim to have “An entirely new approach to home WiFi.”

eero is the world’s first home WiFi system. A set of three eeros covers the typical home. They work in perfect unison to deliver hyper-fast, super-stable WiFi to every square foot of your house. It’s simple to set up. Easy to manage. And gets better over time with new features and improved performance. Stream video, get work done, or swipe right in any room — not just next to your router. Finally. WiFi that actually works.

I was considering replacing my AirPort Extreme base stations with Eero devices but ultimately decided not to. Eero devices are more powerful than AirPort Extreme base stations and have potentially better reach, but under the hood, their roaming technology is also based on 802.1r. I had a chat with their technical support, and they confirmed that my roaming experience wouldn’t improve with Eero. They did, however, claim to be working on new roaming technology that should come as a software update. However, they couldn’t give me an ETA on that. I have no issues with the coverage my existing AirPort Extreme network provides, and I decided to stick with what I have. But if I hadn’t invested in 4 AirPort Extreme base stations already, I would give Eero a try.

AirPort Extreme vs. AmpliFi HD

Since writing this article, I have upgraded my entire home network with AmpliFi HD mesh networking technology. You can learn more about that migration here.

What’s your experience with handoff between AirPort Extreme base stations or other technologies? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

60 thoughts on “How Handoff Between AirPort Base Stations Works”

  1. Hi, I just wanted to ask you for advice. I have an Airport Extreme connect directly to my internet provider down stairs (main floor) and a Airport Express upstairs as an wifi extension but I have noticed that almost all my decives conects to the AP Extreme and not the Express and I don´t know why and how to correct this.

    • Hi Juan Carlos,

      I’m guessing the AP Extreme is the more powerful device and/or operates on channels that have less interference. I’d download a Wi-Fi scanning tool and find out what the channel landscape looks like and how much interference you have on these channels.


  2. danke fuer die feine hintergrundinfo, hr kummer!

    i have just upgraded my 5th gen apple time capsule with a $30 4th gen tc off ebay in a roaming config (via ethernet). setup with airport utility was a breeze. while i might be missing out on peak performance as offered by the latest mesh products you are reviewing nothing can beat the budgetary requirements of my humble setup. a step or two behind can save quite some money (and save aged equipment from the junk yard).

  3. Still hanging on to a single Airport extreme base station – with 20 connected devices it says! In the age of COVID I have ether-netted the kids computers but the whole network works well. My 3 security camera are POE and on ethernet too so that helps. I hear nothing but good things about Ubiquiti and that will be my next router / network when wifi 6 is a bit more popular. The poor old airport’s fan is noisy but she’s still hanging in there! About to add a few airport expresses to create a Sonos like audio network. Thanks for the article.

    • I literally just did the same thing. Airplay 2 is awesome! I’ve got one in the garage, and one in the kitchen. Combine that with the two Apple TV’s, and it’s a heck of a party! I started with just a time capsule for everything, but recently added(wired) an extreme in the opposite end of the house(in the entertainment center). The kitchen express only connects to the network(wirelessly), while the garage one extends it(wirelessly).
      These things are getting cheaper to pick up all the time. I’ve got a shop 20 minutes away that only sells used electronics. Been stopping in about once a month.

  4. First off – thanks for a wonder (and detailed review). Like each of you, I have been considering retiring my current Apple Extreme set-up in favour of something newer (hopefully better). Everything is currently working, but I can tell that performance is starting to suffer as I add Nest and Ring cameras to our home network.

    I currently have 3 Airport Extremes and 1 Airport Express (basement; 1st floor; and 2nd floor) connected with wired ethernet cables – I had an additional Express or two connected wirelessly but they didn’t help so I removed them. As I mentioned above, I have numerous Ring and Nest cameras which are consuming lots of bandwidth. Although the set-up has been very stable (i.e. not requiring any re-boots, etc.), there are a couple of spots where coverage is less than optimal (but still ok) – but what I find he most frustrating is that some cameras are connected to an AE that are further away (with weaker signal) when there is a AE closer to them. I was hoping that moving to a Mesh set-up (with wired backhaul) would help ensure that all devices connect to the closest/strongest signal.

    I’m trying to decide between 3 or 4 wired Amplifi HD routers or Eero’s or Orbi’s. Although I can find numerous reviews of Eero and Orbi, there are not as many (quality) reviews of Amplifi – especially with a backhaul configuration. I’ve only read good things about eero, but I don’t like that it only has 2 Ethernet ports (as I try to connect with wire wherever possible, and have a NAS devices, Hue Hubs, etc.). Most of the Amplifi reviews that I found are for the kit (with 2 wireless units) and do not contemplate multiple routers in a wired configuration. So I was incredibly happy to find this posting/review – exactly on point.

    I am leaning towards a completely wired Amplifi solution since it should allow me to simply swap my AE’s with the Amplifi units, and still be able to plug all my other components into the Amplifi (same as before with my AE’s). From what I read, the Eero solution may be better, but it is more expensive and I hate that there is only 2 ports (and one of which I’ll need to connect to the backhaul).

    I’m worried about pulling the trigger since everything works as-is (even if not optimally). I would hate to go through the trouble and expense and not see any real benefit. I know you switched since your devices started to fail, etc. (and I am not yet there). Given that you have had the Apple AE set-up, how does the Amplifi (with wired backhaul) compare with a working Apple AE set-up? Is the Amplifi (being much more current) way better, or is the performance about the same, etc.?

    Also, did you try or look into the Eero units? I like that they have BlufferBloat QoS, but since I don’t currently have the same with my Apple AE set-up, I am willing to forego it in favour or more Ethernet ports. Thoughts?

    • Hi Frank!

      I had nothing to complain about AmpliFi and the performance was overall better than what I had with the AirPorts. But I have since switched to Ubiquiti’s UniFi equipment, which performs even better than AmpliFi. UniFi is the business brand of Ubiquiti and AmpliFi the consumer brand. You can learn about Ubiquiti in my review and comparison: https://michaelkummer.com/technology/amplifi-vs-unifi-how-to-get-the-best-wifi-signal/

      I haven’t had a chance to test Eero yet, but I’ll likely give Orbi a try in the next few months. Based on what you shared, I think you’ll be more than happy with AmpliFi!

  5. Thanks for the quick reply. The ethernet cable is connected: to the Primary AP on a LAN port, to the Secondary AP on the WAN port.

    Looks like there is some pretty interesting stuff on your blog. I’ll have to read the Ampli and Unifi posts. Thanks.

  6. I have a multi-AP network, as you describe: primary AP connected to WAN, secondary AP connected to the primary via ethernet and configured in roaming mode (create wireless network, same SSID, bridged mode), and a few AP Expresses connected wirelessly to support AirPlay speakers. If I restart the primary AP, the network gets confused, and does not reconnect to the WAN. According to Airport Utility, it that the secondary AP, or one of the APExpresses is the route to the WAN, and the Primary AP, using these as an intermediary, can not connect to the WAN. The only solution is to unplug the secondary AP and all of the APExpresses, until the primary AP gets connected to the WAN, and then restart the other devices. Uggh. Do you know of a workaround?

    • sorry – the missing word in the 3rd sentence is “believes”, ie “According to Airport Utility, it believes that …”.

      An alternative workaround would be to remotely restart all of the other devices at roughly the same time, just after restarting the primary AP, but Airport Utility grays out the “Restart …” menu option while any one device is being restarted. Any ideas for this?

      • Hi Mark!

        I don’t recall having run into such an issue but to be fair, I have moved away from the AirPorts a while ago when I migrated my network to AmpliFi and later UniFi – see michaelkummer.com/tag/amplifi

        But did you connect your Ethernet cable on the secondary AP to the WAN port or to one of the three LAN ports?

  7. Hello.

    Quick query, are you using the guest network feature of the airports? If so, does it work on the extremes which are in bridge mode? I currently have one extreme but intend to add another as per your set up as the bandwidth really drops off at the opposite end of the house. I’m using the guest network currently, and would like to keep doing so when I add a second.


  8. I’m running three Airport Extremes on my network. All are in Bridge mode. They all have the same SSID and are set to auto channel selection.

    A Cisco small business router (no WiFi) provides all DHCP and NST translation and it, in turn, attaches to a Motorola cable modem. I haven’t seen any issues, over an extended period. I also run a fourth AE that provides a guest wireless network.

    I haven’t seen any issues with handoffs or performance degradation.

    The AEs, as mentioned earlier, act like a big switch. With that in mind, I try to avoid cascading switches (connecting one switch downstream of another), as this can have an effect on performance and reliability.

    I’m considering taking one AE out of service as I’m thinking I might have too much coverage. Right now I’ve got one per floor of the house.

  9. Hello So i have a question. I have my airport extreme connected to the main router via ethernet on the 2nd floor. I have two other airport express connected to the extreme via wireless. These two express each are located on separate floors. 1st one is on the 1st floor and 2nd one is on the third floor of my house. How do i ensure that when i am moving in between the house my cell phone is getting the wifi network through the base station that is located on the same floor i am on. The reason i am asking is most of the time i notice that i am connected to one specific base station. This creates an issue because if i am connected to the base station that is on the 1st floor and if i am on the 3rd floor then my internet is very slow. I want to make sure that when i am on 3rd floor i am connected to the network then using the base station on the 3rd floor. Please Help..

  10. Thanks for your article Michael. I could use some help as I have a slightly different situation. I have two routers in my home – a Comcast Xfinity router/modem as my main router, and a time capsule (with AirPort Extreme) in Bridge mode. The hand off from one to the other is a big problem. When I move from one side of the home to the other, it doesn’t switch to the closest router. I have to manually go on and select on my iOS or Mac. Any advice? Thanks

    • Hi Manish,

      I don’t think handoff works between these two “incompatible” routers. You need to get two AirPort Extreme base stations, set them to the same SSID and turn off WiFi on the Comcast router.

  11. Hi,
    Thanks so much for the great article! I’ve been running 2 APEs connected via ethernet for some time (same SSID and in bridge mode). I constantly get stuck with devices not handing off properly. Any suggestions? They are newer devices – iPhone 7s, 2015 MBP, 2017 MBP.



  12. Great write up! I have an additional question about wifi channel. I have almost the exact same set up as you – four airport extreme slaves attached to a main airport extreme master via Ethernet and a switch. Plus a couple of airport expresses for line-in to my Sonos (grrr Audible still not supported). But my Sonos cuts out now and then even though I’m knee deep in signal. Sonos says “insufficient bandwidth” even though I have giga up and down (700 plus when measured directly)

    I started to poke around. Could it be that I have TOO much signal and they are interfering? Sonos starts talking about the wifi channel. So I went into the Airport Utility to figure out what was going on. It seems some are on the same channel, some different – and I started to wonder if they should all be on the same channel (more strength) or if the same channel was a liability (more cross talk and interference)

    It seems your hand offs are very smooth. Would you mind reporting back which channel your router’s are using – and are they the same or different?

    Thanks again!

  13. Hi Michael! This is the best source of Apple Airport configurations I have found! Thank you for taking the time to write it! I do have a question. I have a Time Capsule, and two Airport Extremes. Currently, they are all hard wired directly to my Fios modem, and all in bridge mode. It works, but sometimes I completely lose my wireless connections until I reboot all Apple routers. Based on this article, I think maybe I need to use one (the Time Capsule) as a master and then hard wire the other two directly to it as slaves. I am aware the two slaves should be in bridge mode. But what about the master? Should it be in bridge mode as well, when connected to the Fios modem? Or should I have the Time Capsule configured as DHCP/Nat and ignore the double Nat error?

    • Hi Mike,

      You definitely want your two salves in bridge mode and use the TC as your master. If you can set your FIOS modem to bridge mode as well, let the TC do NAT/DHCP, if that doesn’t work, set the TC to bridge mode as well.

  14. hello.. i have 25 airport express units and in my experience there is no true handoff. Its true that you will jump to another AP when the signal is stronger but thats true of any AP you have stored credentials for. True seamless handoff without momentary signal loss is certainly not happening for me. If i’m wrong I’d love to know how to achieve that!

  15. Good article and useful information. I would like to have a stronger wireless signal and coverage in my home. I use mostly Apple products but I have a variety of other devices as well. Streaming is important as well. I need to be able to walk from room to room using any device without losing signal strength.

    Currently, I am using a Synology rt2600 router which I would like to be the main router. I would like to use either Airport Express or Airport Extreme to create the wireless coverage while maintaining a strong signal. Of course, I would wire the AEs.

  16. I was asked by the author to submit experiences after setting up my “Wireless Area Network (WAN) Roaming network with Apple Airport Extremes (AEBS) , 4ᵀᴴ Gen 802.11ac. You can see it on my own blog to be published soon. Basically it worked as expected. Setup was really easy using a LAN connection at each AEBS and a reset on each one to begin from scratch. Subsequent added units copy in the setting on the first one so you only have to set one up properly so it works as you like it, then the other(s) copy the settings so they can be part of the roaming array.

  17. Nice article! In my case, I’m going to go for a hybrid system. Why? I have need of a WAP near my Ring device (almost dedicated) because the Ring demands a very strong signal (so it’s within 15′ of the exterior of the house). As for all our mobile devices (iPhones, iPads, laptops) that is what I want to cover with the roaming network. Since the 5GHz band is speedier, my thought is to use that for roaming and have the strongest signal available in the core of the house (center). I plan to use 2 Airport Extreme’s at two corners where I have existing wired LAN already available.
    My tests show that I need about a (roughly circular) 20′ diameter around each WAP where my coverage will be optimum. I have my frequency plan figured out (using WiFi Explorer) so minimal interference with others will occur on either band. I will use 5GHz for all the mobile devices in the house and 2.4GHz band outside the home to extend service.
    I’m hoping to be able to easily set up and configure my network when I get the second AEBS, a refurb I found from Apple at a good price recently.
    I am going to try using a switch in between the WAP’s and take your suggestion on that one. I will use bridge mode for all since the router/gateway for my internet is the one that gives out IP’s. My main WAP unit has been operating on bridge mode successfully all along.
    Does all this seem workable to you? Why or why not?

  18. Hello everyone…like several others, I have invested in 2 New Gen Airport Extremes, 1 New Gen 3TB Time Capsule with 1 Older Gen 2TB Time Capsule. There are some great posts on this site and after reading multiple configs, I seem to get more confused. I thought I understood the Router / Bridge Config and it worked great when I just had one Airport, but now that I have 3 new ones, I am lost. My network has crashed several times, been on support with Apple Tech and they believe my settings are all correct. I’ve even had Time Warner / Spectrum out, installed new dedicated modem (no router or phone telephony, just a basic modem only), upgraded some Cat5 to Cat6, etc, but still have occasional network crashes.

    I had my new home prewired at every possible location so performance can be optimized with direct connections. However, I still have many devices which are wireless. The primary AP is connected via WAN port to the cable modem and the LAN port is connected to my switch (24 port for other home automation and audio/video devices). The other AP extenders all be hardwired to the 24 port switch. Do these AP extenders need to be connected directly to the primary AP or just the LAN connection via the switch? Also, since I have several APs throughout the house, most wireless devices are able to connect within a reasonable distance the closed AP so I want to setup the 5ghz network as well. Can the SSID for both 2.4 and 5ghz be the same or do they need to be named separately? I want my network to allow roaming throughout with every mobile device so what is the best method of configuring the additional APs? Do I set the AP utility to “create a network or extend a network”? Am I only setting up DHCP on the primary and not on the secondary APs? Are the extender APs setup on bridge mode only? Is there any advantage to setting up the APs with static IP addresses using their respective mac addresses?

    I have at least 10-12 devices that are hardwired in my rack for audio/video/PC/home automation etc. I need my network to be solid and reliable otherwise when there are issues with APs, the network traffic slows everything else down which caused WiFi TV remotes and sound latency issues or no function at all.

    As I mentioned before, already spoke to Apple Care and no real results, however, my network is unreliable and they have no answers or solutions. I realize my network and device count is high, I am certainly not running a system the APs are not capable of handling. I believe something in my local config is causing the network to be unreliable.

    I would appreciate anyone’s input or recommendations. Answers to my questions would be great too!!

    Thanks in advance…

    • Hi Lynn,

      To answer some of your questions:

      – The additional AP should be connected via their uplink port to the master AP. I did it directly and haven’t tried it with a switch in between.
      – You can use the same SSID for both 2.4 and 5Ghz – in other words, I did not create a separate 5Ghz network.
      – DHCP should be off on all but the main AP
      – The additional APs are in bridge mode
      – The additional APs are set to create new network with the same settings as the master AP
      – I would use static IPs, so I can ping them without having to look up the current IP, but it is not required

      Maybe you can try the above and let me know if that fixed your issues.

  19. Hi Michael! Really so happy to find your topic! I have interesting issue with my set up. I hope you can help me!:)
    I am living in own house,so I was having problems with wifi coverage that’s why I decide to use AirPort Extrems in all places where I was planing to put switch. Now my set up already have: 1 6gen AE,1 5gen AE,2 4gen AE,1 2gen Express.
    Internet is coming to ZTE f688 modem,which is working like DHCP server aswell. All cables CAT5e.Cables going to: 1 5gen,1 4gen,1 6gen. After cabels coming from 4gen to express and from 5gen to one more 4gen. All stations is set up to Create new network. All SSID have same name. All channels- different.
    Finally my problem:))
    When I am making call with FaceTime and starting it let say near 6gen AE,and starting to move to other station,it is connecting to new station immediately with no issue,but Face time is freezing in that moment,after writing:reconnection…if I am keeping moving to “new” station,facetime will stuck until I will cancel call or my opponent will cancel it on other side. If I will go back to station where I was starting my call,in that moment when it is saying “reconnecting”,connection is coming back and I can speak by FaceTime. Same problem with Viber. May be you can help me with this issue?
    May be one of airports should be DHCP head?
    Thanks a lot!:)

  20. Wow. I made the network changes and now my network is 100 x faster than it was. Roaming networks FTW!

    One odd thing is that one of my 3TB TCs still has a fast blinking yellow light on it even though it is green in the AirPort Utility app and is functioning perfectly. Haven’t been able to track down the cause of this issue yet but its not causing any problems so its not a big deal for now.

    Thanks again!

    • Hi Colin!

      I have had the same blinking LED and it took me until yesterday to figure out, that a firmware update was available via AirPort utility. I have heard from others, that version 7.7.8 is not very stable but I updated anyway to see what it would do. So far, I have had no issues.

  21. Great article! Very helpful. I am in the middle of sorting out how to best use the numerous Apple wireless routers I have to create a roaming network. I have:

    2 x 3TB Time Capsules (the newer kind that are tall rectangular solids)

    1 x 2TB Time Capsule (the older kind that is a short, flat rectangle but seems to still be able to do 5GHz)

    1 x Newer Airport Express (desktop rectangular model)

    2 x Older Airport Express (rounded rectangular models that could be plugged directly into the wall)

    I have a central location in a downstairs closet (probably not ideal) where the cable modem is and where currently one of the 3TB Time Capsules is operating as the master wireless network router. A few devices are hardwired into this TC including a SONOS BOOST, the other two TCs, and a Mac.

    I recently had two proper cat5e ethernet cables installed to two points that are pretty far away from this central downstairs closet and I want to utilize them to create a roaming network. I have a third location that is connected using coax cable and two coax-to-ethernet adapters at each end. I realize this is not going to transmit gigabit ethernet speeds but its better than nothing for now (I plan on installing another length of cat5e cable to this location as well if I can do so conveniently).

    One of the ethernet connected locations has a bunch of devices that are ethernet enabled such as SONOS devices , a Blu-Ray Player, a Hue Base Station, Apple TV. I have an ethernet hub for this location which I should be able to plug either the newer Airport Express into or one of the 3TB TCs.

    The other proper cat5e connected location probably wants a wall mounted unit so I was thinking this might be a better place for the new AirPort Express unit.

    The older AirPort express units are probably only going to be used for music so I was thinking of putting them in Client Mode (I think it is called) so that it behaves passively and does not try to extend the wireless network (and thereby slow it down since its so old?).

    I think it makes sense to use the older 2TB TC at the location that is connected by the coax cable because it is also an older model but I am not sure if this is correct logic.

    So all of the devices (except the older Airport Express unitrs) will be set to “Create a Wireless network” with all but the master wireless router (one of the 3TB TCs) will be in bridge mode. They will use the same SSID but different channels for both the 2.4GHZ and 5GHz networks.

    Does this sound right?

    The ethernet cables should go into the WAN port on the units. Someone mentioned something above about using one of the LAN ports instead if the connection appeared to be a dotted line the AirPort Utility. Is this correct?

    Any advice, corrections, cautions, etc would be greatly appreciated. I have been having a hard time with this but I think the info in this post should help! I think I must have taken one of the units out of bridge mode before which probably created a multiple DHCP server chaos situation or something. It took a while for my network to come back up yesterday and I had to unplug everything for a while.

    • Hi Colin!

      That sounds about right. The CAT5 cable is connected to the LAN port on one end and to the WAN port on the other, for each of my AirPorts. The “slaves” should all be in bridge mode (no routing) and they can get their IP via DHCP.


  22. Hi Michael!

    You wanna use the same SSID for both. To see which one your device is connected to, you can use AirPort Utility as it shows a list of wireless clients. Keep in mind, however, that the handoff may not always be instantaneous.


  23. I have now 2 Apple extreme’s set up. One is called upstairs and the other downstairs. They’re connected with each other via Ethernet. I choose ‘set up new network’ for the 2nd one. When I go upstairs my iphone/ipad keeps holding on to downstairs. How do I make the devices switch automatically to the strongest signal?

  24. Michael L, you shouldn’t set them up on the same channel, they would interfere with each other (that’s applicable to any access point). AEs should be on different channels – that’s the correct way to run them and that’s how seamless roaming is supposed to work. When set up with the same SSID & security, seamless roaming is supposed to work automatically.

  25. I apologize if this question has already been asked. I have connected a 2nd airport extreme to my 1st airport extreme via ethernet cable. During set up I choose new network so I now have two channels. My question is how can I set it up so it’s one channel with seamless roaming. I thought if I choose extend network it will not use the ethernet connection between the two. Please advice. Thank you!

  26. Actually you connect your 1st AE to the Asus Router and connect it with the WAN port. From a LAN port of the first AE you connect the second AE (again to the WAN port). I know you can connect all AEs in a daisy chain fashion or you can connect to the first AE three secondary AEs via the WAN port. If all AEs are close to each other, connecting all secondary AE via a LAN port might work. Then all AEs will use the same channels. If the distance is too big, then use the WAN ports. You can check the distances via the airport utility: if it shows a solid line, then it works via the LAN ports. If you have at least one dashed line, choose the WAN ports. Be aware that you need a gigabit cable connection between the AEs, if you use old CAT5 cable, certified up to 100Mbps, the cable can become the bottleneck.

  27. Thanks Michael! Was wondering if the following setup would work:
    – Asus (router) -> Airport Extreme (master, bridge mode) -> switch -> other AEs (slaves, bridge mode).

    (more info in my comment below)

  28. Thanks for your input, Lutz! Unfortunately, I need to use Asus router. I have two WANs (main and backup) and Asus can fall back to the backup WAN if the main one is not working (rarely, but it happens). So I can’t use master AE as a router, only as bridge.

    I was wondering if I can connect it like this for roaming to work:
    – Asus (router) -> Airport Extreme (master, bridge mode) -> switch -> other AEs (slaves, bridge mode).

    Some mention you must have to connect slaves to single master AE and they all can be in bride mode. But haven’t found anyone who would say that for sure.

  29. You will have to use one as master for creating a network and the others for extending the network. A router in between will prevent them from working. Use a direct LAN cable instead. A Hub might work.
    I gave my AE a fixed IP address because they lost connectivity when my router would renew the lease.

  30. Do you know if the roaming would work if I several Airport Expresses works only as Access Points? I.e. I connect several AEs as slaves to my Asus Router (master)? Or do they need another AE as a master for roaming to work?

  31. I have only 2 Airport Extreme AP. If I connect the slave AP via the WAN port then I create 2 independent networks. When I connect the slave AP just in the drawing from Apple shown above I have a real roaming network.
    I noticed that both AP use the same channels. Is this normal?

      • The picture taken over from Apple shows, contrary what I thought they were, multiple independent networks. The screenshots from AirPort Utility shows a roaming network. If the Airports are connected by LAN cables, then the roaming network is daisy chained, whereas the independent networks are shown in parallel.

        I was first wondering why my Airports were using the same channels. I guess this comes from the beam steerings. In my case, my two AE do not interfere with each other.

        My personal experience with different networks and roaming network is that with different networks my iPhone would only choose another network is the first AE is so weak that no traffic goes through. With roaming network, the AE would decide who should be connected and that happens much earlier, but it may take up to some seconds.

  32. Interesting. Thanks for all the info. I am in the process of installing 35 new Airport Express access points as well as 6 Airport Extremes in our rather large elementary school. Our building has very thick concrete block interior walls so wireless has been an ongoing problem. At two of our other schools we’ve invested in Aerohives, but at $670 each I felt we should try Airports. I am installing one Express in each of 35 classrooms, and thus far have installed 6 in adjoining rooms down both sides of one hallway. Additionally, we have throughout the building 6 Cisco WAPs hanging from the ceilings in hallways. Using the same SSID and password as the Ciscos I have created “new networks” with each Airport. According to Apple each will support up to 50 users but we will rarely have more than 5-6 connections. So far the ones I’ve installed are providing excellent quality bandwidth up to 140 Mbps, averaging around 72 Mbps.

    One problem with multiple WAPs in close proximity can be the wireless channels used. When there are too many connections on the same channels it can slow your connection considerably. To solve this I am using different channels on adjacent Airports so that down a hallway with 10 Airports they will mostly have different channels for both 2.4 and 5 Ghz.

  33. Good write-up! Just wanted to mention that BestBuy periodically has refurbished current generation (ME918LL/A) AirPort Extremes as low as $109. I was able to do a 3 AirPort Extreme setup cheaper than I could with eero.

  34. I am attempting to do something like this myself. I have a couple of questions for you on your setup:
    1. Are the secondary airport extremes in Bridge Mode?
    2. Which ethernet port did you use to connect the secondary extremes (e.g. the uplink port or one of the LAN ports)?


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