AirPort: How to update the firmware on your AirPort Extreme or AirPort Express from a Macintosh

This article has been archived and is no longer updated by Apple.
The first step in updating firmware is to connect to the base station. There are several ways you can do this. Here are two examples:
  • Choose a base station's unique network name from the AirPort menu, or
  • Connect your computer to the base station using an Ethernet cable.

Tip: If your network uses multiple base stations, roaming, wireless distribution system (WDS), or a third-party router, you might have to use different types of connections. See the "Advanced information" section below to learn more about updating over other types of connections.

How to update

After you have connected to the base station, follow these steps to update the firmware:

  1. Download the firmware update for your AirPort Extreme or AirPort Express.
  2. Open the Firmware Updater. It should display all available base stations.

  3. Select the base station, and click the Update button. This will start the firmware update process. This process may take a few minutes while the update is transferred to your AirPort Extreme or AirPort Express.

  4. Click the OK button when the application notifies you that the update is finished. You will see your base station listed with the updated firmware version. If you have more base stations to update, return to step 3. If you are done updating you can Quit the application.

Advanced information

You may connect to a base station directly or indirectly. In a direct connection, communication passes from your computer to the base station that's being updated without going through any other device. If you only have one base station, your connection is always direct. The examples above are direct connections.

In an indirect connection, communication passes through a third device (usually another base station or router) to reach the base station that is being updated. This can happen on networks configured for roaming and/or WDS, or that have third-party routers or access points. Direct connections are preferred but not required.

Base station firmware 5.3 or later improves the ability to update the base station over an indirect connection (firmware 5.3 is included with AirPort software version 3.3 and is also available for separate download). If your base station has not been updated to firmware 5.3 or later, or if you are in the process of updating to version 5.3, a direct connection is the most reliable.

Updates over an indirect connection will not work under some circumstances when using firmware prior to 5.3, so they are not the preferred method. They do often work, however. Attempting to update over an indirect connection is worthwhile if it will save you the effort of making a direct connection to an inaccessible base station (such as one mounted in a ceiling). If the indirect update is not successful, connect directly.

Tip: The way you can tell that an indirect attempt has been unsuccessful is that AirPort Admin Utility will display the progress indicator (looks like a spinning pinwheel) for over three minutes, remaining unresponsive to other input. When this happens, choose Force Quit from the Apple Menu, select AirPort Admin Utility from the dialog, and click the Force Quit button.

Note: Mac OS X 10.2, Microsoft Windows 2000, and Windows XP users must download the 5.3 firmware separately. The AirPort 3.3 software is for Mac OS X 10.3 or later only. Links to the Windows AirPort Admin Utility and the latest firmware are on the AirPort support page .

Examples of indirect connection:

  • You connect wirelessly to the station with network name "A", which has a wired or wireless (WDS) connection to the target base station with network name "B".
  • You choose a base station's non-unique network name in the AirPort menu.
    Note: When base stations have the same network name, known as "roaming," then you may be passing through another base station to reach the target base station.

Ensuring a direct connection

If you can't use the direct methods described above, try one of these two methods:
  • Temporarily rename the base stations' networks.
  • Temporarily unplug all but the target base station.

This third method almost always works:
  1. Locate your computer near the target base station (or vice versa).
  2. On the computer, turn AirPort off in the AirPort menu.
  3. Turn AirPort on again.

Your computer should associate with the nearest base station when AirPort is turned back on, though unusual circumstances or sources of interference can keep this method from being 100 percent reliable.
Published Date: Feb 20, 2012