Apple Airport Extreme Problems: The Ultimate Fix.

Switching to Apple about a decade ago improved my online-life no end; no longer did I have to spend hours/days trying to maintain my computer – as is/was largely expected as part of the PC crowd, for example, “Yeah, you need to defrag your computer at least once a month…” – I was instead free to be as productive as my wandering mind wanted, on MySpace, and then Facebook. I digress.

In more recent times, however, the company’s tireless mission to produce % in profit for their eager investors has led the company to drop the ball in many areas – and none has given me as much woe as the continued issues experienced on their Apple Airport Extreme product.

What exactly is wrong?

The short story is that anything after Airport firmware 7.5.2 has not been found to work universally, and many users (including myself) have found that the router will work fine for about 12-24hrs, when things start to go a little wrong and packets go missing, connections get slow, and everything just kind of grinds to a halt.

This is detailed with a lot more information in these threads from the Apple Support site here and here.  As far as problems with your tech kit go, this is easily one of the most frustrating, as the problem isn’t completely obvious at any point and there are so many variables that it’s difficult to know where to start.  I was tempted to replace the whole device!

Furthermore…

To exacerbate the problem, Apple also stripped down their formerly excellent Airport Utility tool after version 5.6.1 with a horrific iDevice version that removes useful tools like restoring old firmware.  In fairness, I would never have thought I’d have been in a position to worry about this kind of stuff with Apple, but I guess this was inevitable as soon as iDevice-land blew up.  Again, I digress.

The Fix.

To allay the majority of issues, it would seem the first step is to get a copy of Airport Utility 5.6 or 5.6.1 – however, this will not work if you simply try to install the .pkg file from the Apple website, if you have OSX Mountain Lion or possibly other later versions of OSX.

Simply follow these instructions to get Airport Utility 5.6 going again:

  1. First, enter the following line into Terminal – you can find Terminal in your Applications/Utilities folder:xar -x -f /Volumes/AirPortUtility/AirPortUtility56.pkg

    Should look something like this in Terminal

    Should look something like this in Terminal

  2. Right-click the AirPortUtility56Lion.pkg file that was created and select ‘Show Package Contents’
    Screen Shot 2013-03-10 at 23.30.54
  3. Rename the file ‘Payload’ to ‘Payload.tgz’ (this makes it an extractable file), then double click this
  4. Navigate the contents of ‘Payload.tgz’ to find Airport Utility in Applications/Utility
  5. From this lovely, old utility you can now restore old firmware to your trusty Airport Extreme (Base Station/Upload Firmware… from the menu)
    Screen Shot 2013-03-10 at 23.42.05

There was a more simplified routine using an Automator workflow that you can drag and drop the original .pkg file on to and feel free to give this a try yourself, but it didn’t work for me; I also preferred the more organic and raw version of this fix using only Apple’s inbuilt tools.

Let me know if you found this useful.

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