Replacing Airport Extreme

One of the “problems” I have with Apple products is that they last way too long. This was the case with my 2nd generation Airport Extreme which after many years of duty started to require reboots every couple of weeks. I remember the process I went through when it replaced my old AirPort (the one that looks like a space ship) but that’s of little use now. So before I went out an picked up a 6th generation Airport Extreme, I looked around the internet to see what I would have to do to swap out the routers. Didn’t find too much so I figured either the supporting documentation for replacing the equipment under Yosemite hadn’t been published or that the AirPort Utility would make it dead easy. The answer was mostly that the AirPort Utility took care of the heavy lifting but not quite all of it. Here’s my recommendation:


  1. Make sure you remember/write down all existing networks and passwords you’ve configured. You’ll need this in case you decide to manually configure the AE and want the least disruption to the clients you’ve set up on the existing networks.
  2. Take all the wired connections out of the old Airport Extreme (AE) and plug them into the corresponding ports on the new AE. Leave the old Airport Extreme plugged in. This isn’t documented anywhere but trust me on this. There’s no need to export your current AE configuration via the AirPort Utility.
  3. Plug the new Airport Extreme in.
  4. Open the AirPort Utility on any Mac/iPhone/iPad with wifi on.
  5. Find the new Airport Extreme and follow the prompts.
  6. When you get to the prompt asking you if you are replacing an Airport Extreme, click ‘Yes’. The Utility will find your old Airport Extreme (which you intelligently left plugged in) and ask you if you want to copy your configuration over. Click ‘Yes’ or ‘Ok’ and wait for the new AE to boot up. Your existing network and router configurations will be copied over to the new AE by the AirPort Utility.

This “easy” approach will do nicely in most cases. However, if you are in an apartment or area where there are a lot of wifi networks, I recommend manually selecting a channel for each frequency in your network. In Yosemite (and Mavericks) it’s very easy to do. Option-click the WiFi icon and pull down to ‘Open Wireless Diagnostics’. Ignore the dialog box that opens and go to Window->Scan. You’ll see all the wifi networks around as well as their channels. The Scanner will give you a recommended channel for all frequencies supported by your router. Go into the AirPort Utility and change the channel via pulldown from the default ‘automatic’ to the recommended channel. Save and your AE will reboot with the new configuration.

If everything is set up properly, go ahead and export the new AE configurations and save it in case you need to do a hard reset and want to restore existing conditions quickly.

Unfortunately for me, a couple of corrupted tables were ported over from my old AE. Client IP addresses were being double assigned by NAT and local server names were being numerically incremented. I did a factory settings (hard) reset (via AirPort Utility) and manual configuration for the new AE to eliminate this issue.

2 thoughts on “Replacing Airport Extreme

  1. “One of the “problems” I have with Apple products is that they last way too long.”

    Funniest line I have read on the Internet all week. Hilarious.

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