Apple Airport Antenna Booster Help

The Apple Airport Extreme is one of my favorite wireless routers or internet access points. I've used many different brands over the years but I like the AE for three major reasons…
  1. The Airport Extreme is very easy to configure and maintain or modify.
  2. The signal strength is one of the best of all the boxes I've used. So much so that in most cases, when a client tells me they are having trouble with signal strength from their current box, I usually suggest an Extreme and the problem is often solved. and
  3. Airport Extremes have a USB port that allows for easy service expansion. It's very easy to add a printer or an external hard drive at a later date to enhance the capabilities of your network.

Improving Signal Strength
So, what about those times when the range or signal strength of the Airport extreme could use a boost? As mentioned in an earlier post where I discuss an Airport booster antenna, there are a few more solutions that could easily help you bump that signal strength up a notch or two.

Location Matters
The first thing you can do is understand where you've placed your Airport and see if there's something that might be interfering with the unit's operation. Small details like being placed in a closet or behind a thick masonry wall can have a huge effect on its performance. Is the unit centrally located or is it in a lower level toward one end of a building?

Often moving the unit into an open space and/or centrally locating it will help. Or maybe moving it closer to the place you need the signal.

A client called one day to say he was having trouble with his signal after moving his home office to a new location… Seemed that when he first set his office up, it was in an alcove inside his bedroom. Within the room was a cable hookup and that was where the modem and Airport Extreme were installed. Now his office was in a spare room on the other end of the house. It just happened that there was a cable outlet in an adjacent room so all we had to do was relocate the modem and Airport and the problem was solved.

You might consider moving the the airport to a higher level or even mounting it vertically.

Here's what I mean… The airport extreme is just another object. And like other objects around us in our homes, we tend to keep them at a level that is convenient for us to use. Therefore all these objects would naturally be at about the same level. Every time a radio signal has to pass thru an object, it degrades slightly. If a bunch of objects are sitting between your Airport Express and your computer, it stands to reason that degradation would ensue.
image of bracket used to mount an apple airport extreme onto the wall to improve performance
I'm therefore suggesting that you try mounting the AE closer to the ceiling. Try holding it there and ask an assistant to see if that helps. If it does, then all you need is an Airport Bracket to solve your signal woes.

Make It Bigger
You could also extend the Airport network with another Airport Extreme or an Airport Express. Clicking on either of those links will take you to my review of each of those devices.

As mentioned earlier, the Airport Extreme is incredibly easy to configure or re-configure using the software application already on your Mac (Airport Utility). You'll find this app in the 'Utilities' sub-folder that's nested within the 'Applications' folder.

Think of the Airport signal as a bubble. By adding an additional device, you're in essence increasing the size of the bubble. Expanding your wireless network is pretty easy. You can use my favorite tutorial on How to Extend your Wireless Network with an Airport Express. I printed this out and carry it with me to use at clients homes when I need to extend their wireless airport networks.

While that tutorial explains how to expand a network using an airport express, the same procedure can be used if you want to use another airport extreme as well.

Add An Antenna
And finally you may want to add a booster antenna to your airport extreme. Early models of the AE came with an external antenna connection port. The newer and most recent models no longer have this port. It's still possible to add an external to an airport that doesn't have a port but it involves opening up the airport extreme case and reconnecting antenna leads. I don't recommend doing this as it voids the warranty. If on the other hand you are comfortable around electronic devices and your unit is out of warranty, visit this link for instructions on how to attach an external antenna to an Airport Base Station and click on the drop-down menu at the bottom of the page titled 'Installation Instructions.

Spring Cleaning Your Mac

Call it what you will, but Spring Cleaning is just as important on your Mac as it is in real life. From cleaning out old files to organizing music/movies/TV shows that you threw into iTunes over the past few months, spring cleaning is a necessary task.

While we tend to accumulate a lot of small files, the biggest bang for the buck is going after the big ones. One way to find large files that might be eating up space on your Mac is with a smart folder. It's easy to set one up right from the Finder. To create a smart folder that will find large files on your hard drive, simply follow these directions:

Open a new Finder window and select File > Find...

Then click the button just right of the 'Save' button. This is the 'Plus (+)' button.

In the resulting window, select "Other" from the first drop-down menu (the default selection is "Kind), and search for the key word "size." If you wish this item to remain in the menu, select the "In menu" check box. Select the OK button once you select the "Size" item.

Select "is greater than" from the next drop-down menu.

Type in the size that you would like to search for files. I would suggest searching using 1 or 2 GB, but you can use any size you wish.
Finder will immediately begin searching your Mac for any files that match the criteria we just specified. When you are ready to save your smart folder, select the "Save" button from the top right of the Finder window. You will then be asked to specify a save name and location. Now whenever you want to look for large files that might be hogging space on your system, just open this smart folder, and let the search begin!

One Word of Caution...
Do not delete any files until you've made a backup. If you're using Time Machine you should be safe but never delete a file without having a backup just in case you might need to restore it.