Geekery with an AirPort Express, a SMC 2804WBR, and WDS

APX and SMC(Editorial warning: incoming copious nerdish acronyms)

In the interests of adding this knowledge to the global encyclopedia, here’s how I managed to get my Apple AirPort Express to extend a wireless network created by a SMC Barricade 2804WBR vers. 2. This is accomplished using the Wireless Distribution System (WDS) that the AirPort Express supports. Unfortunately, Apple only provides instructions for setting up in conjunction with their AirPort Extreme base station.

But, it does work with other configurations, so read on for the gory, geeky details.

First of all, you need to make sure you’re running the SMC Barricade 2804WBR model which supports WDS, as there is an earlier version which is lacking this feature. Look on the bottom of your router. If the Part Number is 751.0164 or 751.7437, you’re cool. You also need to be running the most recent firmware for the SMC Barricade. I’m not sure which version added WDS support, but I upgraded my to version v1.00.013 and it worked for me, so Bob’s your uncle.

Before we begin, you will need the MAC address of your AirPort Express (located on the side of the unit). It’ll look like this: 00:0A:EF:54:8A:55. Go and write it down now.

SMC Barricade 2804WBR setup

  1. Log into the administration screen for the SMC Barricade. The default IP address for this is, which is what I’ll assume it is for the router-related links sprinkled throughout these instructions.
  2. If you haven’t changed the administration password, the default is smcadmin. Don’t be a patsy - change the default password if you haven’t already.
  3. Click on the Wireless link, located in the left-hand navigation.
  4. Click on Channel and SSID.
    1. The SSID is the name of your network that wireless machines can connect to. The default is SMC, which is boring and old. Change it to something saucy, like deanmartin or goodManZeldman. No spaces.
    2. Set the Channel to 1
    3. Leave the other settings alone for now, unless you really know what you’re doing. Click on Apply to save.
  5. If you want to use wireless security, you must use Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) and not Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA). The explanations for these are long and storied, and would make this entry read like War and Peace written in hexadecimal, so I’ll leave it up to you to do some nerd sleuthing. If anyone can recommend a good, easy to understand online article on what WEP and WPA are, and the pluses and minuses of both, please let me know or post it in them comments.

    At any rate, the way that WDS works is not compatible with WPA, so that’s the reason why it’s WEP or no protection at all. If you decide to set up WEP, make sure to keep track of what you set it to for later.

  6. Click on WDS.
    1. Make sure that Enable Repeater is checked.
    2. You will now need the MAC address of the AirPort Express. Enter it in in the boxes beside “AP MAC address 1”.
    3. Apply your changes.
  7. That’s it for the SMC Barricade!

AirPort Express Setup

  1. Install the AirPort software that came on the CD included in the AirPort package.
  2. Using an Ethernet cable, plug the AirPort Express into one of the open ports on the SMC Barricade (not the WAN port, though).
  3. Launch the AirPort Admin Utility (located in Applications>Utilities>AirPort Admin Utility).
  4. Wait for the light on the front of your AirPort Express to turn and stay solid green. You should then see the device listed in the AirPort Admin Utility’s window. Select it, and press Configure.
  5. Under the AirPort tab, set the following:
    1. Name: Whatever your heart desires
    2. Use base station to: Create a Wireless Network
    3. Name: Whatever you set it on the SMC Barricade (see Step 4).
    4. Wireless Securiy: If you created a WEP key on the SMC Barricade, you will need to enter it here, but you will need to enter a dollar sign ($) before the key so that the AirPort Express recognizes it properly.
    5. Channel: Set this to 1.
    6. If you turned off SSID Broadcast on your SMC Barricade, you might as well uncheck Create a closed network here so your APX doesn’t broadcast its SSID, too.
  6. Click on Network and uncheck Distribute IP addresses. You want IP addresses to be distributed by the SMC Barricade, not the APX.
  7. Click on WDS.
    1. Check off Enable this base station as a WDS, and set it the dropdown menu to remote base station.
    2. Check off Allow wireless clients on this base station.
    3. For Main AirPort ID, if you are broadcasting the SSID of your SMC Barricade, you can simply click on Select and choose it from a list. If not, you will need to enter the MAC address of the SMC Barricade by hand.
  8. Switch to Music and set a name for your APX and a password, if you like.
  9. Now you can press Update to save all of your changes.

Your AirPort Express will now reboot. After about 15-30 seconds, you should see the cheery glowing green light on the APX which tells you that all is well. You can now unplug the Ethernet cable from the APX and move it to where you want it to live. You’re done!

For those of you who are looking for instructions on how to get your AirPort Express working with a Linksys WRT54G, check out Ryan Schwartz’s excellent instructions.

If you’re looking to get the SMC Barricade working with the Linksys WRT54G, the Linksys settings are the same as on Ryan’s site, and the SMC Barricade settings are the same as explained here, except that you must disable the DHCP server, which is found under the LAN settings. You also need to ensure that each device’s MAC address is entered in the proper location in the other’s configuration screen.

Please post in the comments if you’re having problems, or if these instructions worked for you. Also, feel free to point out any errors I may have made.

ISSN 1499-7894
Recent Posts
Contact Archives Web Love Writing Photos FAQs Home