Cheap wireless speakers: How to configure an original AirPort Express (A1084) on macOS High Sierra

An original AirPort Express from 2004 I still use to share a printer and speakers in 2017.

The original AirPort Express (US model number M9470LL/A) debuted in 2004. It only supported up to 802.11g wireless, but that’s plenty good enough to run some AirPlay speakers or share a USB printer.

If you want to make some speakers wireless, this original AirPort Express is a cheap and easy option since you can probably snag one on eBay for less than $20.

About 5 years ago Apple stopped supporting the original AirPort Express in the AirPort Utility, but there was still a workaround if you could get the old version of the AirPort Utility running. Then, in macOS Sierra, that stopped working.

I still had one of these old AirPort Expresses sitting around and wanted to configure it. After lots of troubleshooting, I was able to figure out a way to configure it on macOS Sierra and later, so I figured I’d share the process in case you want to do the same:

  1. Reset the AirPort Express. While it’s plugged in, hold the reset button until the light starts flashing fast (about 10–20 seconds) then let go.
  2. Download this old version of the AirPort Utility 5.6.1 with an AppleScript that allows it to launch on macOS Sierra. The .dmg version is probably your best bet.
  3. Drag AirPort Utility 5.6.1 into your /Applications/Utilities/ folder. You will need to enter your administrator password.
  4. Next, after you’ve dragged AirPort Utility 5.6.1 into the Utilities folder, drag AirPort Utility 5.6.1 Launcher into your /Applications/Utilities/ folder. You may need to enter your administrator password again. It’s important to do steps 3 and 4 separately instead of dragging both into the folder at once — otherwise, you’ll most likely get an error message. This is the biggest area people run into problems with my guide.
  5. Open AirPort Utility 5.6.1 Launcher to launch the utility. You may need to open Security & Privacy in System Preferences to approve this, if you get a message about the app being from an unauthorized developer. Now that the AirPort Utility is open, you still won’t see your AirPort Express, even when you click the “Rescan” button.
  6. On your AirPort Express, there’s a a label that has an AirPort ID on it. Make note of the last 6 characters of your device’s AirPort ID. It will probably be a mix of numbers and capital letters. For example, mine was E217DF.
  7. Under the Wi-Fi menu on your Mac, go to “Join Other Network…” and type Apple Network ______ as the network name, replacing the underscores with the last 6 characters of the AirPort ID you found in the previous step. All capital letters in the AirPort ID should be made lowercase. For example, I joined the “Apple Network e217df” network.
  8. Once you’ve joined this network, your AirPort Express should show up in the AirPort Utility. Now you can configure it to join your existing Wi-Fi network so you can share speakers or a printer. If you have trouble getting the AirPort Express to join your existing network, it may be due to the wireless security on your existing network. The old AirPort Express is not compatible with all security configurations. If you run into problems connecting, try temporarily disabling security on your network to get the AirPort Express to connect. Once you find it can connect, try different combinations of security settings on your existing network and the AirPort Express until you find something that’s secure enough for your needs, but is still compatible with the AirPort Express.

If you have any questions or this guide helps you, please send me a message on Twitter instead of responding to the story on Medium.


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