Using an Airport Express as a wireless extension to Linksys WRT network with WPA2

Whew! What a mouthful.

Alright I had already posted on how to get the Express talking to Sveasoft’s firmware using WDS and WEP. This allows the Express to connect wirelessly to the Linksys and let me play my music, etc.

Since then I had upgraded my WRT to the Linksys 4.70.6 firmware which supports WPA2 and Apple had released Airport 4.2 (Express 6.2) which supports WPA2 so I decided to try and get this all working.

Short story: it works! Here are the steps to save you a bunch of time.

  • First off, forget “WDS” with the express. Don’t need it. They hide it from you now. So you are best off using the reset button on the express to totally clear it’s settings. I had to do this to get this working.
  • On the Linksys go to the Wireless tab, then click the Wireless Security sub-tab. Set the security mode to WPA2 personal and the algorithm to TKIP+AES. Enter your password. Update the linksys.
  • If you have any laptops, re-connect them to the network with the new WPA2 password and make sure all of that is working.
  • Now plug the Express into your Mac using Ethernet (or into your Linksys via Ethernet). Open Airport Admin Utility found in /Applications/Utilities/
  • Your Express will have default settings. Double click it in the list to open it up.
  • Set the name to something like My Express
  • Click “Change Passeword…” and set your express password. This is NOT the WPA2 password
  • Now comes the new, easy part. For Wireless Mode, choose “Join an Existing Wireless Network(Wireless Client)
  • In the Wireless Network section click the popup and choose your Linksys Wireless network (or type in the exact SSID if you have it hidden)
  • Click on Security Options and set the Security to WPA2 Personal and enter the same WPA password as you did on your linksys.
  • Click Update in the bottom right corner.
  • Click OK and you’re done!

I did find one interesting bug. After the Express has rebooted and you open the Express up again with Airport Admin Utility, clicking Security Options will show that it has connected via WEP. Now maybe it has fallen back to WEP and WPA2 allows this, I don’t know, but all I do know is the Linksys and Express were orginally set to WPA2 and they connected. The summary page lists WPA2 though.

Also notice that once you choose “Join an Existing Network…” most of your option tabs go away (as they should) and you are left with just Airport, Internet and Music.

It appears that in this non-WDS mode printer sharing is not an option, or maybe it “just works” if you plug a printer in. I don’t know. 🙂

This also might not be using the Express as an extension to the network, just a simple client. But it was easy to set up and allows me to use the better WPA2 security so I’m not complaining yet.