AirTunes, AirPort Express, and the WRT54G

Here’s my notes for setting up your brand spanking new AirPort Express with your Linksys WRT54G (or GS) in WDS (bridging) mode, while still allowing AirTunes to work.

Part 1: Your Linksys WRT54G(S) setup

  1. Grab the most recent public sveasoft firmware from here. (direct link to download the G firmware file here – Description: USE OF THIS FIRMWARE IS AT YOUR OWN RISK! MAKE SURE YOU USE THE APPROPRIATE VERSION – “G” for WRT54G MODELS AND “GS” FOR WRT54GS MODELS.)
  2. WRT54GS users, please make sure you grabbed the firmware from the first link above – the direct link is for the WRT54G ONLY!!!!!!
  3. Install the firmware (Administration–>Upgrade Firmware)
  4. Set the channel on your Linksys to Channel 1 (Wireless–>Basic Settings)
  5. Provide the MAC address of your AirPort Express’s wireless interface on the WDS setup page (Wireless–>WDS), selecting the “LAN” option
  6. On the same page, toggle “Lazy WDS” and “WDS Subnet” to off.
  7. Turn off the loopback interface (Administration–>Management)
  8. Set “Ignore Anonymous Requests” to off in the Firewall setup (Security–>Firewall)

Part 2: Your Airport Express Setup

  1. Install the AirPort software that came on the CD with your AirPort Express
  2. Hook your AirPport Express up to your Macintosh via an ethernet cable
  3. Open the AirPort Admin Utility (Applications/Utilities/AirPort Admin Utility)
  4. Select your new AirPort Express from the list of found access points, and click configure
  5. On the AirPort tab, set:
    • Use base station to: Create a Wireless Network
    • Network Name to the same SSID as your WRT54G(S)
    • Wireless Channel to 1
    • If you’re using WEP, you’ll need to enter your WEP key.
    • If you’re not broadcasting your SSID, check the “Make this a closed network” box
  6. Jump over to the WDS tab and check Enable this base station and set it to work as a “remote base station”
  7. Check Allow wireless clients on this base station
  8. Enter the MAC address for your WRT54G(S)***NOTE*** in the Main AirPort ID box. (or if you’re SSID is broadcast, just click browse and pick it from the list)
    • ***NOTE***(WIRELESS MAC ADDRESS… guess I thought that was a given, but seems to be some confusion – this is WDS – Wireless, hence the need for the WIRELESS MAC address…)
  9. On the Music tab, check Enable AirTunes and put in a nice name for your speaker connection
  10. Click Update and wait for your AirPort Express to reboot

Once this all is done and your AirPort Express comes up, you should see a pretty blue light on the side (front) of it, indicating that your WDS connection is up and purring and you can now hook up your speakers, fire up iTunes, and rock the house.

Wireless Encryption Addendum:
Keep in mind that you can only use WEP (or no encryption at all) with WDS due to the way MAC addresses get encrypted when using WPA, which doesn’t work well when you need to hard code the “remote” WDS node’s MAC address on the Linksys… also, please read the comments below regarding the WEP key and a nasty little $ that is needed for this to work.


69 thoughts on “AirTunes, AirPort Express, and the WRT54G

  1. These are the only instructions on the WEB that work for the WRT54G and Airport Express. I have tried for several weeks using other instructions. Not until I found these did I get it working. Thanks very much for your advice!!

  2. I posted your instructions LINK to this page within the Apple Discussions board on the matter.

    DHCP & NAT note:
    You should note, I had to acknowledge that it should not enable DHCP and NAT distribution on the wireless Airport Express when I pressed the UPDATE button by answering “NO” to the question it askes you in the popup window.

    Had I known to turn those settings off it would have avoided that confusing popup.

    Either way (assuming to you answer correctly “NO”) these instructions are otherwise fairly complete.

    WEP 128 step note:
    In my case I had read that adding/prefixing a $ in front of the long WEP 128 key that I generated using the WRT54G when I added that key TO THE Airport Express settings permitted the setup to take.

    Operational today, and good luck to you if you are reading this after weeks of frustion and almost resorting to selling your AX on ebay. 🙂

    Now lets work on wireless power, K? Cause this rechanging batteries thing is getting old.

  3. Just for the record, you can choose “main base station” in the airport setup, if the airport is used for internet access.

    (Edit by ryan: “If you’re using it as a ‘Main Base Station’ you wouldn’t need anything in this post, FYI – this is for WDS connections to other access points, not native setups”)

  4. Well, I’ll be damned. The $ sign did it for me as well. Up until then, these excellent instructions were roadblocked. Thanks!

  5. Hmmmm….I’ve followed all of the instructions, but everytime I update to the Satori firmware, I lose my PPPoe connection (though all the login info is still there and correct). I also lose the use of my wireless printer. Has anyone had experience connecting the wrt54g router to the airport express when the router is wired to a PC? I suspect this might be the problem.

  6. Thanks — like others, these instructions were the only ones that I found to work. I can’t get ITunes to see the Airport Express, though — so it is a pretty cool bridge, but right now nothing more. Any help? Thanks.

  7. Thank you for this excellent tutorial. It worked perfectly. My only big problem is for some reason I cannot set my AX to any channel other than 2. With dozens of base stations sitting around my apartment community, it can be painful. At least nobody else uses that channel (right now).

  8. Well, this took me a lot longer than it took most. Two caveats.

    First, I’ve installed Airport Express Update 4.0.1. With this update you no longer need to prefix the 128 bit WEP key with a “$”. In fact, if you type a “$” as the first character, the “Wireless Security” popup menu changes from “128 bit WEP” to “40 bit WEP” as soon as you type the “$”. So if you’ve upgraded to 4.0.1, skip the “$”.

    Second is that when you are configuring the WRT54G, on the “Wireless>WDS” page, where you change the popup menu to “LAN” and then enter the MAC ID of the Airport Express, you have to enter the correct MAC ID. The AE has two MAC IDs, one for the Ethernet port, and one for the wireless side. In my case, since there is no Ethernet cable running between the LinkSys and the AE, I needed to enter the MAC ID for the AE’s wireless side.

    After that I finally got the long-awaited solid green light.

    Oh, one more thing. Channel 1 is not a requirement. The only requirement is that both the LinkSys and the AE are set to the same channel. I used channel 11 in the hope that my 2.4GHz cordless phone might not try to use that channel quite as often as it does channel 1.

  9. Ok. This is about to be the death of me. I swear that I have done everything according to the step by step directions, with no success.

    I’ve got a WRT54GS with the proper firmware from SVEASOFT Firmware Version: Satori-4.0 v2.07.1.7sv. I’ve updated the AX to Firmware Version 6.1 and am also using the newest version of the setup admin program. I’ve performed every step 6 times and can’t get the green light. I’ve tried it with WEP 128, 64, and no security at all. The only thing about my setup that’s any different than normal is that I’m only using my WRT54GS as an AP which is connected to another Linksys router providing DHCP, which has no wireless ability.

    I’ve never understood the ‘$’ addition to the WEP key, because then you have one too many characters for the proper length of the hex key, and it won’t accept it.

    Another potential issue I’m having which is contrary to the instructions: Using the Airport setup utility in the WDS tab, I can’t scan for my WRT54GS as a wireless network to use as a WDS main base station. Do I have to set this thing up from a machine which has wireless as well as being hardwired to the network during setup?

    Any and all comments would be greatly appreciated.

  10. Hey guys. Just wanted to let everyone know that I finally solved my problem and it’s working beautifully. Here’s the deal: The linksys router’s got three different MAC addresses. One each for the wired WAN, the LAN and for the wireless LAN. Changed the MAC to the wireless LAN and problem solved. Greatness.

  11. I had some trouble getting this to work because I was confused over what MAC addresses to use. In case anyone else is having trouble:

    For the Airport Express:

    1. Launch the Airport Admin Utility
    2. Highlight your Airport Express in the “Base Station Chooser”
    3. Look over to the right at the “Base Station Information” section and use the last item at the bottom labelled “Airport MAC address”

    For the Linksys:

    1. Login to the control panel
    2. Click on Status -> Wireless
    3. The first item in the list is the MAC Address that you want

  12. Thank you Ryan, these clear instructions were great and a special thanks to Todd, getting the right MAC address for the WRT54G was the key.

  13. I appear to be running into a situation where using my PB halfway between my AE and my Linksys causes extreme network performance degradation. It’s like the packets go every which way, and I get about 1/10th the normal throughput. Is there a way around this? At the moment, I’ve got my AE turned off. :-/

  14. Packets will only go to one or the other, and it’s a discreet switchover, so this sounds like your ‘book is flipflopping between the two – best is to just move a few feet one way or the other…

  15. Thanks for the feedback, Ryan!

    Saw some mentions, on the web, of bumping down the transmit levels a bit on the Linksys. I’ll try both, though (moving one way or the other, and also the power tweak).

    The impetus for doing it via power is that my wife’s iBook resides on the breakfast bar, in one spot, that’s also about halfway between the two. For her to relocate would mean a non-trivial amount of rearranging. 🙂

  16. I’ve got my AX set up on an Ethernet cable currently, straming music, but with Wireless turned off. I have a 54G that it is piped into using said cable. The room the AX is in has lousy WiFi reception from the 54G, so I’d like to enable the AX.

    My quesiton is this – should I unplug the ethernet cable at any time, or will it still work as a brige while connected by a cable? I’m still new to wireless, I imagine that the AX would be a node that just repeats back through the ethernet cable to the base station.

  17. Your instructions worked perfectly, with both my AX modules streaming music. Then I came back from a week of travel and my computers no longer had an Internet connection. I reset the Linksys and now I have the dreaded blinking yellow light on the AX again (but have Internet access via ethernet through the router again). I went through the entire setup process again (per the instructions above) and it’s still not working. What in the world could have changed to goof up my finally-working setup? Any help appreciated!

  18. I have tried and tried an i can not get my WRT54G and Airport Exteme working 😦 annoying as hell!!

    everyone else is lucky

    its not getting past an orange light

  19. hmm … worked for me with the ibook g4 on the network, but my ibook g3 (with the ‘b’ wifi card) can’t see the express. any ideas, lazyweb?

  20. I downloaded the freshest firmware from linksys (version 3.03.6). I don’t if it will work tomorrow, or even 15 minutes from now, but it works now. I’m not sure if you need to mess around with the sveasoft stuff anymore.

    I’ll keep you updated.

  21. Wow. Thanks for these instructions. I had been told repeatedly that the Express wouldn’t work with the LinkSys router. Being a network geek, I couldn’t understand why. Finding your site inspired me! I bought the Airport Express on eBay and got the stereo connection kit from the local Apple Store. I was in business within an hour of breaking the hardware out of the box. Now, IBJAMMINMON! Thanks!

  22. Scrap the third party drivers. I had my setup working once, then lost it (see my post above) never to be able to get it working again.

    Went back to the factory firmware, then updated to the latest version (3.03.6) and got everything working fine. Thank you Linksys!

  23. Just want to thank you all for the great information.

    I got mine to work using the new firmware for WRT54GS from Linksys which may be a good thing as I dare not to venture into the realm outside of Linksys support. As for the Airport Express, I used the $ sign for WEP and had it working on channel 9.

  24. I can’t get my g3 ibook with airport to see the airport express (just like murray boyd above), and I didn’t see any responses that would help (my AE is set to “both” bands)… any suggestions would be appreciated!

  25. The new firmware 3.03.6 is working great. It can’t be emphasized enough, check and double check the MAC address from the Linksys. I think I have to clean the contacts… I swore I had copied the correct one, but i didn’t. I ran into some other issues after that turning Web and “Allow wireless clients to connect” (had disabled to trouble shoot prior to MAC correction :-). I had also done a hard reset. Just double check everything MAC address, broadcast name, WEP key, same channel. I thought I was nucking futs. TiBook did seem a bit tweaky connecting to the WRT54G but a reboot took care of that. All in all a good directions and should be fine if all the planets align, er I mean settings are correct.

  26. Thanks for your help. I’m using a Linksys WRT54G and Airport Express. Took me about 15 minutes and everything was working great. Although, the only thing I’m noticing is that when streaming MP3’s to the Express, I get occasional hiccups all the time. Is there any way to prevent this? My host computer (and jukebox) is a 1 GHz 17″ Powerbook. I’ve tried bumping up the multicast rate in the Express settings and toyed with the Interference Robustness settings on both the Airport and router with no real change.
    Any help would be appreciated.

  27. any idea on how I can do this with linksys wrK54g? I’ve been trying for months to get my airport express working with my linksys wireless system and was relaly excited when I saw this article … until I saw that the referenced firmware is not available for my linksys.

  28. Minor update. For AirPort Express firmware version 6.1.1, Apple claims to have resolved a minor issue related to using WDS with WPA security. I would far and away prefer to have WPA security for my wireless network, but alas the Linksys firmware does not seem to support both WPA and WDS at the same time, even in the latest revision (3.03.06). I tried to check the Sveasoft docs, but couldn’t figure out if it supports WDS+WPA or not.

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  30. thanks ryan for the excellent instructions on setting this up. it took me a complete weekend wasting my time with other ways to do this until, finally i found your info and got it working within 15 minutes!

    trouble is, it’s not secure so i have to go back and fiddle with the security part (which i’m dreading). are there any easy instructions to do this without stuffing up the current settings?

  31. One problem I haven’t been able to solve when I set this up. Everything was working with the WDS bridging, but my non-Airport (wired only) machines were no longer able to stream music. I only have wireless in my Powerbook, and my other machines couldn’t “see” the AX when it was configured as a repeater or remote basestation. Anyone else have this issue?

  32. I’m triyng to make my AP DLink DWL2000AP+ working with AX with WDS.
    No luck.
    Any comments?

  33. Due to the location of my router, stereo, etc, I want to use the Airport express as the main base station, and a WAP54G as a range extender.

    Anyone have any advice on how to accomplish this?


  34. I can’t get it! The AE won’t show up in Airport Admin Utility and when I think most of the rest of it is configured properly it says there’s an error configuring the Base Station. BTW what’s Airport Express Setup Assistant? I don’t even have that on my computer!

    I’m using Alchemy for my firmware…could that be the problem?


  35. I want to do the exact same thing as Demian, namely, use the WRT54G as an extender to an Airport Base Station. Has anyone done this?

  36. off the subject slightly, but a real bonus: i am successfully using a buffalo wireless pc adapter in my g4 desktop to access the WRT54G/AE network. the mac sees it as an airport card and it fires up without any other drivers! whoo hoo!

  37. Thanks, Demian. I tried this and got it to work…sort of. It seems to be creating some kind of conflict with the wireless network and sometimes it works, sometimes not. Go figure.

    I have an Airport Extreme base station and an Airport Express repeater along with the WRT54G, so maybe it’s the Airport Express addition that’s creating havoc with the setup?

    I’ve disabled it and am still looking for alternatives. Is yours working well?

  38. I finally got this working with everyone’s comments and suggestions. I have the much covetted solid green light on and its streaming music from my primary itunes machine upstairs in the house. I downloaded the latest linksys firmware, as well as upgrading the AX. I then told it to join a network and gave it the shared wpa key I use on the linky. After toiling with finding an IP address, renaming my network to remove the “_” I had in the name, which the AX didnt like, I got it to grab an ip from the linky’s dhcp server! Now, if I could only keep it secured(WPA) and use that damn ethernet port to plug into my XBOX so I can stop running cables down here! Thanks!

  39. I have followed the instructions provided in detail. I just purchased the apple airport express base station and was attempting to connect it through my Linksys wireless G (WRT54GS with Speed Booster) router (v 1.1). I downloaded the alchemy firmware upgrade and followed the instructions in detail. I am working from the AirPort Admin Utility in a PC environment, and almost all of the tabs are as described. For some reason, the install process does not work. The details provided were so good, I was convinced that it would work seamlessly. Anybody have any ideas???

  40. Craig: It seems to work well, I’ve had no conflicts other than when my girlfriend picks up the 2.4 Ghz phone. 🙂

    I have noticed some latency when I move around and switch between the APs, but my house is only about 1000 square feet, and the WAP54G covers almost the entire thing, so I think it drowns out the AX a bit and the network isn’t always sure which AP to choose.

    The airtunes streaming works very well though, as long as I have at least 3 bars of antenna, and it works from either AP.

    Feel free to email me at diluted at if you need some more help.

  41. Ryan,

    I just moved and needed to re-configure my home network. The other guides failed while yours (still) succeeds. Just thought I’d let you know that everything still looks great!


  42. Ryan — Instructions are great. I was able to get the green light going on the AE, but I still can’t seem to get it to connect to the WRT54GS via wireless. I have been able to connect other wirless devices to the AE and access the internet when the AE is hard-wired to the WRT54GS. Anyone have any ideas.

  43. I finally got the the AE connected to the WRT54GS!!!!! Turns out I had a bum WEP key in the AE. Its always the simple things that cause the most pain.

  44. hi folks,
    thanx for all the good advice and hint on the ae/wrt54g problem, but still, the shit is not working at my place!!!!
    i have a wrt54g v2.2 with the sveasoft alchemy firmware, and a ae with the latest firmware and upgrade. i use a wired pc that is connected to the wrt54g and a powerbook that is wireless connected to the wrt54g.
    i want to use the ae as a bridge/repeater in wds with the wrt54g, i followed every step that you posted, but still not working!!!
    i think i have twp major problems: wep encryption does not work, with or without the $ prefacing the key, and in wds the two devices do not communicate at all.
    anyone has some good advice???, i am sure that it can work, it is just that i make some mistakes i do not see at the moment…
    many thanks, malte

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  46. Ryan….

    You’re the best!!!! Thank you so much! I had been spoiled on the ease of use ofa Buffalo Tech router and a Belkin router. The Linksys setup was a nightmare to figure out until I found this tutorial!!

    Thanks a ton!!!!!


  47. You rock! These where the only instuctions that I’ve found which work!!! I had to restart my network to make the router recognize the AE in WDS and it worked like a dream.

    Can you work your magic on boosting the signal strength of the AE (I know it has juice that we are not tapping into).

    Many Thanks!

  48. Thanks to Ryan & others. I struggled for hours (many) trying to install AirPort Express on my Windows XP network with WRK54G Router and WPC54G Notebook Adapter so I could use iTunes to wirelessly play music thru my Sony home theater system.

    Only after I took your advice and connected the Router to the AirPort Express using an EtherNet cable did the AirPort Express show up in the AirPort Admin Utility. I set up the AirPort Express as a “client” on my wireless network and then disconnected the EtherNet cable & hooked AirPort Express to my home theater system with an optical cable. Everything worked!

    I did however, have frequent AirPort Express dropouts and had to change the “channel” setting in AirPort Admin Utility and in WRK54G Setup several times to find a channel that worked consistently.

    Thanks again for your help.

  49. Please tell me this works not only on the WRT54G but on the WRT54GC? I would think the compact version would allow for the same settings as the WRT54G. I don’t want to fry my router by installing the wrong firmware.


  50. Clear and concise. Thanks a lot Ryan. My only hitch was the operating frequency; I had to go up to 9 to get a good clear connection. Learned a lot, and had lots of fun (when it was all working)!

  51. Thanks for the awesome advice. But here’s a question from a wireless newbie, how do you know if your computer is getting it’s wireless access from the airport express (bridged), or from the wrt54g directly?

  52. First – Thanks for the great instructions.

    One problem – When the AX is connected via a cable to the WRT54G router, I get all sorts of packet loss and intermittent outages. I also can’t access the AX Admin Utility. But when, I disconnect the ethernet on the AX, everything works like advertised. Any reason why I can’t hard line the AX during a WDS setup? I assumed that wireless clients can connect to the AX and the AX can send the info back to the WRT54G via the hard line rather than the wireless signal. Also, thought my bandwidth on the AirTunes would be more reliable with a direct connection from the PC to the AX. THanks!

  53. Hey! It worked. I had spent all day going from Google hit to Google hit and your explanation was the only one that worked! Thanks

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