Airport Express headaches

My beloved 6+ year old HP 995C finally went to that great big printer queue in the sky. ::sniff sniff:: I loved that printer. I think it’s the first time I actually kept a piece of hardware until it just plain wore out and stopped working. And they said it couldn’t be done. 😉

The best part about my workhorse HP 995C was its built-in Bluetooth. No speed demon, but every Mac in the house has Bluetooth so as long as one had patience, we could all share the same printer. I could have purchased another wireless-ready printer, but in the end I decided to go for a budget all-in-one printer (the HP Photosmart C5280 at just $129) and use an extra Airport Express that Eric had (he bought a second one on a business trip a few months ago when he realized he forgot to pack it) to allow all the Macs in the house to print wirelessly.

Easier said than done if the Internet connection is not through an Airport Extreme base station.

After 45 minutes of Googling and scratching my head, I learned: Airport Express base stations don’t like to join third-party networks with WEP encryption. It’s not just me. Or this guy.

Took me at least 4 hard resets and start overs of the base station to figure out that was the problem. Either that, or it’s just the WEP encryption in the #@#^@^ Westell 327w DSL modem that Verizon insists I have to use. I left the WEP encryption because it was the default and I didn’t have a good reason to change it. Until now.

Over and over again the Airport Utility would see the Airport Express, see the Westell gateway network and agree to join it, only to never make it back from the obligatory “please wait for your base station to restart” dialog box. I’d wait. And wait. And wait. Hard reset. Try something else. Repeat.

Rather than futz with changing password formats to get WEP working, I just switched the DSL modem over to WPA2 encryption. Airport Express joined without a hitch. Printer works great all over the house. Tons faster than printing over Bluetooth.


11 responses to “Airport Express headaches”

  1. Hi Judi: I was a little surprised you were still using WEP. Not very secure and older technology. But you probably had your reasons. Glad you got it working. Enjoy the new multifunction printer.

  2. I did move to WPA. WEP was the default, and Verizon won’t talk to you about wireless connection issues if you’re using anything but WEP. So I left it there, not finding a really strong reason to switch. The printer gave me that reason.

  3. I just upgraded my Airport Express firmware to v6.3. After that I couldn’t connect to my WEP enabled network. I was going to agree with you, and switch to WPA, until I checked another PC’s wireless and figured out the problem was with my Verizon FIOS Actiontec router. Once I rebooted that all was well again.

    I remember having problems 3-4 years ago when I got my Airport Express. I spent a lot of time getting it on the network using WEP. The trick was putting a $ in front of the 26 character hex key (128-bit encryption). Since then it’s worked with a variety of wireless base stations, including a Cisco Aironet, a couple Linksys, and recently the Actiontec.

    I’m considering switching to WPA soon, when we add a wireless printer to replace a 7 year old HP that’s on a JetDirect 175x Wireless Print server. I’d rather not mess with that again either. Encouraged to here WPA should be easier.

  4. i’m switching from a d-link to the airport extreme and would love to be able to have my hp wireless printer join the network without having to hook it up to one of my 2 precious airport express thingymabobs.

    anyone whose experienced that sort of hookup?

  5. Thanks a lot!
    I really had a lot of trouble with my airport but this solved it in 10 minutes.

    My airport really disliked the WEP key and I had to do a factory reset before I could connect to it

  6. Please note that this advice also works for those, like myself, using MAC address to limit access to the WiFi. Great advice, thanks a lot,