How to Set Up Time Capsule to Extend A Wireless Network, 2 Ways

By Simon Irons / February 21, 2018
How To Set UP Time Capsule to Extend Wireless Network

You have a Time Capsule and it works great but you have a dead zone or somewhere in your home where the signal is weak. Perhaps out to your back yard or garden or even your Den and you would really like to work from there.

You want to show music movies when you’re partying out in the yard or around the pool? You know to do that you are going to need a good Wifi signal out there.

There is a solution and extending your existing Time Capsule‘s wireless network is one way to do it. Extending the Wifi is easily done through adding another Airport Time Capsule or if you don’t need the internal hard drive of the Time Capsule then an Airport Extreme or an Airport Express as a cheaper alternative.

Assumptions

In this article I am assuming that you have an existing Time Capsule or Airport Extreme or Airport Express that is acting as your base station and is serving your Wifi. And that you have Airport Utility software already installed somewhere and are using it manage and to handle the administration of your existing network.

If I am wrong and you need to set up your Time Capsule’s base station or Airport Extreme from scratch, go take a look at my document here on the site on ‘How to Set up Airport Time Capsule

Already have your Time Capsule or Airport Extreme base station set up and working? Great. I can cut to it.

Basics of Apple Wifi Networking – Important Things to Know

If you understand these basics of Wifi networking, you can scroll right past to the ‘how to set up Time Capsule to extend wireless network’ section. If you find your having problems with your newly extended Wifi network you can pop back here and see if it is down to one of these issues.

  1. It is important to know that networking has its standards yes, but manufacturers can implement certain aspects differently. This is why if you are extending an Apple wireless network it is best to stick to Apple products because they are all from the same manufacturer and are designed to interwork.
  2. That said, using the Airport Express, an 802.11n device, which is the cheapest model to use to extend your Airport Time Capsule’s Wifi. As compared to the 5th generation Time Capsule which is an 802.11ac device. The newer Apple Time Capsule will interwork but the speed will be lower to the Airport Express and depending on how you go about extending your network it may be way lower if you overlap Wifis
  3. The very best way to get maximum Wifi throughput to your dead zone, when you are extending Wifi is to use Ethernet cable from your base station (the one connected directly to the cable modem) to the second or indeed third Time Capsule, Airport Extreme or Express. This set up is also known as a roaming network.
    Ethernet Wired

    Ethernet Wired

  4. Extending using only your Wifi signal is the second best way. BUT bear in mind that multiple overlapping Wifis (and you have to overlap the Wifis to extend the network) will reduce the overall Wifi throughput. This is due to the network management overhead associated with multiple Wifi’s. It could reduce your throughput overall to less than 60% compared to having just the one Time Capsule broadcasting its Wifi. And the more overlapping Wifis the lower the throughput.
    Wireless

    Wireless

  5. Difficult Wifi zones are normally difficult for a reason – thick walls or floor, metals or other electronic devices that interfere with the Wifi signal as well as sheer distance from where your cable modem comes into the building. Overlapping Wifis to extend the network may not and probably will not overcome these obstructions. (You may get a strong Wifi signal but poor throughput) Running Ethernet cable around, under, past these difficult spots and then connecting to a Time Capsule, Airport Extreme or Airport Express is more than likely your best option – because;
  6. There is a difference – a big difference – between a strong Wifi signal. e.g. you are close to the broadcasting Time Capsule or Airport device. And Wifi throughput. It is perfectly possible to see a strong signal on your Mac or iPhone yet get poor throughput e.g. your music stutters or your YouTube video won’t play.
    Because of the overlapping Wifi network’s management overhead or for the reasons that area has poor Wifi in the first place.
  7. Mixing newer and older Time Capsules and Airport Expresses? Say your existing Time Capsule or Airport Express’s is a previous generation running an older wireless protocol. And now you have a newer Apple Time Capsule or Airport Extreme and want to take advantage of the faster networking with 802.11ac. The newer 802.11ac device will interwork because it is dual band so no issue there. However I would suggest it is probably best to have the newer 802.11ac Time Capsule or Extreme as the device directly connected via its WAN port to your cable supplier’s modem. It is the faster device with the stronger broadcast Wifi signal and use the older Airport Express as the ‘roaming’ device.

All the above said, extending your Time Capsule‘s wireless network can work really well and effectively as long as you understand these few things.

How to Set Up Airport Time Capsule to Extend the Wireless Network

You have two main options when you are extending your Wifi. 1. To extend your Wifi wired with Ethernet or 2. Extend Wirelessly by overlapping Wifi signals. I explain both scenarios below.

Note – where I use the phrase Time Capsule – it could just as easily mean an Airport Extreme or Airport Express. I use Time Capsule because it saves me being boring by repeating the same thing again and again …

1. Extending the Wifi Range Wired with Ethernet

So you want to cover a dead zone or difficult area for Wifi in your home.

Your existing Time Capsule is up and working and broadcasting fine. It’s just that you have this bad spot.

You have a second Time Capsule you want to use to extend the Wifi. I would suggest you use the new device with the higher networking standard as your base station – the one connected to your cable modem and the older device to extend.

The very best way to do this is to run an Ethernet cable from your existing Time Capsule connected to your Internet modem to the difficult location. That way you will get 1 Gigabit data via the cable through put to your difficult zone. A much higher throughput than can be achieved with Wifi alone.

The Physical Connections

Your base station, your main Time Capsule will be connected to your cable modem via its WAN port. You then plug in one end of your Ethernet cable into one of its Ethernet ports.

Apple Time Capsule Gigabit Ethernet Ports

Apple Time Capsule Gigabit Ethernet Ports

At the other end of the Ethernet cable run into your tricky Wifi zone, connect that end of the Ethernet cable into the WAN port of your extending Time Capsule.

Airport Time Capsule Wan Port

Airport Time Capsule Wan Port

Try and locate the second Time Capsule as best you can. That means;

Up as high as you can,

With as clear a view as possible to the area.

Now you have the physical Ethernet connections made you can power up the extending Time Capsule.

Extending Time Capsule Software Set Up

To start, it is best to reset the second Time Capsule to its default factory settings.

Time Capsule Reset Button

Time Capsule Reset Button

Use a pen tip, or the end of a paper clip. Press into the reset point on the front of the Time Capsule or Airport Extreme and hold for 5 to 8 seconds.

If you have a Time Capsule with backups already on it this procedure does not erase those backups. Resetting this way only reverts the network settings back to their defaults.

The status light on the front will go from green to amber as the Time Capsule reboots and then flashing amber when it is ready to be configured.

Airport Utility Set Up

Now you are ready to set up your second Time Capsule, and use Airport Utility to extend a wireless network. Have your base station’s Wifi’s name and password to hand as you’ll need it.

Enter Airport Utility either on a Mac or with an iPhone, whichever device you are using to manage your network with.

If you don’t know how to find the Airport Utility application read my document on ‘How to set up Airport Time Capsule

Once the Airport Utility application starts up it looks around for available networks and devices. Airport Utility will see the newly rebooted device and that it is connected via Ethernet cable to the main Time Capsule.

The Airport Utility will show you a pictorial representation of your network.

If for some reason your new Time Capsule does not show up, click on ‘Other Airport Base Stations’ or your version of Airport Utility may say ‘Other Wifi devices’ Toward the top left hand corner of the Airport Utility screen,

Other Wifi Devices

Other Wifi Devices

to ask the software to search for new devices.

Click on your newly booted device, which is in its factory default set up.

and after a short while you’ll be given some options

Time Capsule Add to Existing Network

Time Capsule Add to Existing Network

Select to ‘Add to an existing network’

To add Time Capsule to existing network

If you are setting up on an iPhone or an IPad, Airport Utility may well need you to select ‘Other Options’ first.

Airport Utility then goes away, ports the settings across from your base station and sets up your new device.

You’ll be asked which network you wish to join, which of course is your existing base station,

select that,

then you’ll be asked for the password.

As you are extending the network, give your new Airport Time Capsule the same network name and password.

This will make your life way easier as your Apple Mac’s and iPhones, etc, once set up on the Wifi network, will identify the new Wifi as the same network with the same password and be able to log straight in.

You’ll then be asked whether you wish to send diagnostic information to Apple.

Time Capsule Send Diag

Time Capsule Send Diag

Decide and select ‘Next’

The Time Capsule will be rebooted and your network is now up and running in your new location.

You can follow this same procedure to set up a third Time Capsule or Airport Extreme or Airport Express if that is what you need to do.

Something to be aware of;

When you are using the Wifi on your Mac or iPhone or iPad moving through the building. Understand that the Mac or iPhone or iPad will hang onto the Wifi they are connected to for as long as possible. You’ll probably need to toggle your Wifi off and on for it to pickup the new Wifi signal in the new area.

2. Extend the Wifi Range Wirelessly with Wifi

If you are not using physical Ethernet cabling and instead want to do a wifi to wifi extension, there is just a bit more planning to do.

So you know, for the Wifi to be extended the new Apple Time Capsule has to be able to see the base station’s Wifi. For this to work at all, the Wifi signals have to overlap. However;

The worst thing to do is to locate your new Time Capsule in the most difficult area, where you can only ‘just’ pick up a signal.

The quirk of Wifi is that the new device can only amplify what it can receive. If the signal is terrible then that is what is amplified.

You’ll have a situation when you can see strong Wifi (i.e. your new Apple device is broadcasting strongly) but you’re getting rubbish throughput. Because that is all the device has available to use. On top of that your new device has to cope with the network management overhead inherent with overlapping Wifis. So your throughput could be terrible.

You’ll want to play around a bit, you’ll want to locate your new Apple Time Capsule where it can see the base station’s Wifi but the signal drop isn’t too bad, say about half way.

Then locate the new Time Capsule as best you can, as high up as possible with as clear a sight of the area as possible to give your new Wifi signal the best chance.

Then same as if you were connecting up wired it is best to reset the second Time Capsule to its default factory settings, using a pen tip, or the end of a paper clip.

See the picture above under wired to find the reset point.

Press into the reset point on the front of the Time Capsule and hold for 5 to 8 seconds.

On boot up the new Airport Time Capsule’s status light will go from green to amber to slowly flashing amber.

Now you are ready to configure it with Airport Utility.

Airport Utility Set Up to Extend a Wireless Network

Whether you are using a Mac or a iPhone or iPad with Airport Utility, to manage your network, start up the Application. Airport Utility will find the new device and you can click on it.

Airport Utility will visually show you the two devices connected on the same network and will ask you what you would like to do with the new Airport Time Capsule.

Select to ‘Add to an existing network’

To add Time Capsule to existing network

If setting up on an iPhone or iPad you may need to select ‘Other Options’

iOS Other Option

iOS Other Option

Airport Utility then ports the settings across from your base station to your new device.

You’ll be asked which network you wish to join, which will be your existing base station’s Wifi, and then you’ll be asked for the password.

Set the new Wifi network name and password the same as your base station and select next.

You’ll then be asked whether you want to send diagnostic information to Apple or not.

Decide and select ‘Next’.

The new Time Capsule or Airport Extreme will be rebooted and once the reboot is complete the Wifi network will be ready for you to use.

You can test to see what sort of throughput you are getting on your Wifi and does the new signal cover your difficult area adequately.

If the Throughput is Poor

You may be able to move the Time Capsule or Airport Extreme a little closer to the base station and still cover your difficult Wifi zone.

If the Throughput is Better than Expected

Then you may be able to move the Time Capsule or Airport extreme a bit further away for wider coverage.

YouTube Video – How to Extend an Existing Apple Wifi Network

I have found a YouTube video that shows how to extend an existing Apple Wifi Network.

I think you’ll find it useful.   Video Credit: smurry915

Final Words

Purchasing a second Airport Time Capsule, Airport Extreme or Airport Express can certainly extend the reach of your Apple wireless network. You’ll not only have Internet access where you need it, you also have access to the central storage space Time Capsule provides for Time Machine backups and file storage.

And you’ll have reliable, fast Wifi for strong networking where you need, whether it is around your home or small workgroup office.

 

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