Setting up your Airport Base Station’s Advanced Features

Apple’s Airport Base Station is much more than just a simple Access Point. In part one of this series we looked at how to connect your Base Station to the internet and secure it. Now, we’re going to explore some of the advanced features of your Base Station and see what makes it so special compared to other Access Points.

Airport Base Station’s Other Features:

Your Base Station can do more than just connect to the internet. For the regular Home User, you can share an external hard drive, and/or printer. If you want to get into more advanced areas, you can extend your Airport’s range with multiple Base Stations and a Time Capsule. I’ll show you how to do each.

Sharing a USB Printer with your Base Station:

1. Connect your printer to the Base Station.

2. Make sure the printer is powered on.

3. Open Airport Utility. (It’s in the Utilities folder, inside the Applications folder.)

4. Click Manual Setup at the bottom.

5. Click on the Printer Tab and see if your printer is listed.

Airport Base Station Advanced Features

Note: If you don’t see your printer and it’s powered on and properly connected, quit Airport Utility and reload it.

6. Go to System Preferences and choose “Print & Fax”.

Note: If you’ve used this printer before, you’ll see it in your listing. That is the printer when it’s attached directly to your computer. It is technically not the same printer to your computer. You can verify this by looking at the “Location:” and seeing your computer’s name rather than your Base Station’s name.

7. Click the Plus Sign to add a new printer.

8. Under the “Default” tab, you will see your printer.

9. Click on it and wait for the information to load.

10. Click “Add”.

11. If you’ve used this printer before, you will get a message saying a queue exists.

12. If you get this message, click Cancel.

13. Change the printer’s name to add something like “-Wireless” at the end.

Airport Base Station Advanced Features

14. Click Add to add the printer. If you get the “Queue exists” message, click Continue.

15. Repeat these steps on the rest of your Macs.

Note: If you want to share this printer with Windows machines, download BonJour for Windows and then add the printer.

One last reminder:

When using your printer wirelessly via your Base Station, you won’t be able to access the printer’s utilities. This connection is for printing only. So, unless your printer’s manufacturer has made accommodations for this, I don’t recommend you share an “all-in-one” printer/scanner/fax machine through a Base Station.

Sharing an external hard drive:

1. Connect your external drive to the Base Station.

Note: The Airport Base Station does not have a FireWire interface. Unfortunately this means USB external drives only.

2. Make sure the hard drive is powered on.

3. Open Airport Utility. (It’s in the Utilities folder, inside the Applications folder.)

4. Click Manual Setup at the bottom.

5. Click on the Disks tab and you should see your drive.

Airport Base Station Advanced Features

6. To share the drive wirelessly, click the File Sharing tab.

Airport Base Station Advanced Features

7. Check the “Enable File Sharing” checkbox.

8. You may choose to select the Airport’s password, a separate disk password or by accounts to secure your drive.

Airport Base Station Advanced Features

9. If you want, you may allow guest access. (Not recommended).

10. You can also share the drive over the internet. (Also not recommended).

Note: If you do share the drive over the internet, make sure to set a strong password. Remember, sharing on the internet means the entire internet could potentially access your drive.

11. Finally, if you need to share the drive with Windows Machines, set the Workgroup at the bottom.

Extending your Base Station’s range (non-802.11n or mixed):

Let’s say you have a huge house or small office and your Base Station’s range doesn’t give you the coverage you need. The solution is to extend it’s range. Obviously, you’ll need additional Base Station(s) to do this. If you are extending 802.11n Base Stations / Time Capsules, skip to the next section – Its much easier.

Apple considers extending the Base Station’s range to be a WDS Network. In a WDS Network, there are three Base Stations. A Main Base Station, a Relay Base Station and Remote Base Stations.

Think of the Remote Base Stations as endpoints and the Relay Base Stations as connectors. For example, if you have to connect a Base Station in an area thats further than the range of your Main Base Station, you will need a Relay Base Station in the middle.

To Extend your Base Station’s Range:

1. Decide which Base Station will be the Main Base Station and which will be the Remote and/or Relay Base Stations.

2. Open Airport Utility and select your Main Base Station.

3. Click Manual Setup.

4. Select the Airport Menu and the Wireless tab.

5. Choose “Participate in a WDS network”.

Airport Base Station Advanced Features

6. A WDS tab will appear. Click on this tab.

7. If you are setting up the Main Base Station, choose WDS Main.

Airport Base Station Advanced Features

8. Add the MAC addresses of your Remote Base Stations

9. For the Relay Base Station, choose WDS Relay.

Airport Base Station Advanced Features

10. Add the MAC address of you Main Base Station.

11. Add the MAC address of your Remote Base Stations.

12. For the Remote Base Stations, choose WDS Remote.

Airport Base Station Advanced Features

13. Add the MAC address of your Main Base Station.

14. Check the “Allow wireless clients” checkbox.

Note: If you want to allow clients on your Main and Relay base stations, check the “Allow wireless clients” checkbox for them as well.

15. When setting up a WDS network, make sure the Network name and password is the same for every Base Station.

Extending an 802.11n network:

Extending an 802.11n network is much easier than the traditional WDS network.

1. Pick your Base Station that will connect to the internet (your Main Base Station).

Note: Apple recommends that if you have a Time Capsule in your network, that should be the Main Base Station.

2. Open Airport Utility, pick the Main Base Station and choose Manual Setup.

3. Click the Airport selection on top and the Wireless tab.

4. Choose “Create a wireless network” at the top.

5. Check the “Allow this network to be extended” checkbox.

Airport Base Station Advanced Features

6. If you haven’t already, set up this Main Base Station’s wireless network and connect to the internet.

7. Save your settings and connect Airport Utility to your other Base Station(s).

8. Choose Manual setup, click Airport at the top and the Wireless tab.

9. Select “Extend a wireless network” and choose the Wireless network’s name.

Airport Base Station Advanced Features

10. Check the “Allow wireless clients” checkbox.

11. Enter any passwords if necessary.

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3 Comments

  1. Scott says:

    Do your “Sharing an external hard drive:” steps also apply to older models of the AirPort Base Station?

    My model is like this one:
    http://ucf.refreshelectronics.com/ProductInfo.aspx?id=4690065

    I have successfully shared my printer over the network, but not my external hard drive. Both are plugged into a USB hub that is plugged into the base station.

    In the Airport Utility window, I don’t see the “Disks” tab at the top of the Airport Utility window. The drive is definitely on.

    Thanks,
    Scott

  2. Scott says:

    Nevermind, I think I found the answer… http://www.macintouch.com/reviews/airportn/ says “The new AirPort Extreme adds drive sharing for the first time: plug in a USB hard drive…”

    I don’t have an Airport Extreme, so I guess no sharing a drive on the n/w for me.

  3. David Balogh says:

    @Scott:

    You could set up the external drive attached to one of your Macs and share it that way. The downside is that if you need to access it, that machine will have to be on (and not sleeping).