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Using an AirPort Express to extend your wifi network

On a whim, I bought an Apple AirPort Express to see if I could extend my wifi signal to my backyard.  My existing setup was an Apple AirPort Extreme connected to an Arris cable modem.  Very solid and reliable, but I wanted to do some geeky stuff with a Raspberry Pi on my property and for that, I needed wifi where my current signal was very poor or non-existent.

I had no idea if this would work, I did zero research, I was at Best Buy to buy a new surround sound amplifier and for some reason came up with this idea.

I opened the AirPort Express box and the directions contained nothing about using the device as a network extender.  So I started searching the Web and got a few ideas.  None of them worked.  Including launching the AirPort utility on my iMac.  It saw the Express, but kept getting a general connectivity error that was of no help.  I tried a lot of things like positioning the Express in the same room as the Extreme and even connecting it via an ethernet cable to the Extreme.  Same error.  I reset the Express with a paper clip and tried again while it was connected via wire.  Same error.

After muttering a few choice words I plugged it into an outlet where I originally started this whole exercise, in a location that would give me the best coverage in the far reaches of my property.  I’m not sure why, because this makes no sense, but I picked up my iPhone and launched “settings” then “wifi”.  The AirPort Express was in the list.  I selected it and it asked me if I wanted to extend my current network!  “Well, hell yes”.  It then prompted me for my wifi password and started working.  It was that easy.  If you launch the AirPort Utility on a Mac or any iOS device you’ll see the wifi routers.

I don’t know why this is such a secret but hopefully someone trying this will find this post before they give up.