AirPort Express Setup Failure: Is 2012 the Year of the Lemon?

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone

I haven’t been doing well with tech hardware this year. I think I’ve had to return more devices that failed on installation this year than any year before. The last one was just last week, and it looks like I’ve got another one now: a new AirPort Express Wi-Fi device.

This should be simple to set up. In fact, when you plug it in, and open the AirPort Utility, it looks like it’s only going to take one click to do so. I want the device to extend my network, so my Wi-Fi is better at the far end of my house from where my AirPort Extreme is located. But no luck. When I tried, I saw this dialog, informing me of an “unexpected error” (as if any errors are “expected”:


I tried resetting the AirPort Express to factory settings, a half-dozen times, in fact, but no dice. So this goes back to Amazon for an exchange. I’ve also got a new AirPort Extreme, which I was in no hurry to set up, but which I think I’ll try today, just in case.

This is getting tiring. I’ve spent way too much time trying to get faulty devices to work this year. Last year it was an iMac and a Mac mini, and this year it’s been small devices that have been DOA. Quality control seems to be slipping among many companies, Apple included.

Update: Interestingly, I set up the new AirPort Extreme, and tried setting up the AirPort Express extending its network; it works fine. So is there an incompatibility between the new AirPort Express and the older AirPort Extreme (it’s an 802.11n model, a couple of years old)? If so, there certainly shouldn’t be.

10 replies
  1. shiveringgoat says:

    I have the AirPort Extreme From a couple of years back, it was the first one to have guest networking on it. I have three airport expresses as well and one of them extends my 5GHz network to the other end of my flat into the bedroom, where I am currently laid on the bed typing this, dressed as Anne of Cleaves!

    I’m using the older airport expresses which are fine. Did you make sure you ticked the box in airport utlility when logged into the Extreme to ‘allow this network to be extended’ ? Can’t see this anymore via iPad utility but sure was the before?

    Hope working fine

    • kirk says:

      The “extend network” option is the default when you add a new AirPort Express to a network with an AirPort Extreme. If you want to do something else, you have to click a button and choose what you want to do. But, yes, the options offered in the new AirPort Utility are very limited.

  2. Stephane says:

    Wi-Fi is a nightmare when it comes to compatibility between old and new protocols.

    e.g. a MacBook Pro Retina can not connect to a Free Wifi capture network when an iPad 1 or MacBook Pro 2009 can.

  3. Jeff says:

    Hi Kirk. I also had trouble setting up a new Airport Express. Tried factory reset, etc. Then I turned off my Airport Extreme, and suddenly I was able to set up the Airport Express. What I discovered was that there was an IP conflict. Both devices wanted to be I’m guessing that’s what happened to you too.

    • kirk says:

      No, the AirPort Extreme had a fixed IP address. I would assume that the DHCP server wouldn’t give out the same one.

  4. Pierre Igot says:

    I remember having a similar problem when trying to extend a network. It turned out that the newer AirPort config software required that the config of the older AirPort BS be redone from scratch as well, and after that I was able to use the software to config the newer BS as a network extension without any problem.

    Basically network extension used to require complex manual configuration with MAC addresses, etc. The newer software greatly simplifies the process, but if a piece of the puzzle still has a config that was created with older software, then it becomes a problem. Of course, they don’t tell you anything about it. They just assume you have configured all your devices with the newer software.

    Network config tends to be impenetrable. See

    for another typical example.

  5. tian says:

    As Kirk has already found out, it’s the incompatibility between different generations of Apple wireless devices. I encountered the same issue setting up (fixing) a friend’s wireless network with 3 Extremes. The power supply in the main unit with Time Capsule died after a power outage. It’s replaced with a newer generation of the Extreme. The whole wireless network had to be reconfigured, because this replacement unit is directly connected to the cable modem. However the other 2 older Extremes, though discovered by the AirPort Utility, would not extend the wireless network. So I spoke with Apple support and it’s confirmed that incompatibility was the cause. (The old Extreme model was no longer available, so the other 2 old Extremes had to be replaced as well).

  6. Fred says:

    I have had no luck trying to get the airport express to join my ATT Uverse router. Many re-sets to factory. Even exchanged the hardware, hoping it might have been the problem. Set up seems so straightforward, but always ends in the dreaded: unexpected error. Tried to get tech support – $20. Very disappointed in Apple on this one.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply