Airport Base Station fix: revert your firmware

Our Airport Extreme Base Station connectivity issues are over. Life can begin again.

This, friends, is a new day. Thanks to one lost, but helpful, Apple support site, the issues I had with connecting to my Airport Base Station’s wifi signal and USB hard drive have been solved.

The trick, like anything else, is knowing where to look.

If you’re having issues like I was (Mac wouldn’t connect to base station’s wifi signal, air disk support was totally lost, etc.), first open up your Airport Utility app. I’m using version 5.1 after finding 5.2 to be too problematic (many others found this too – browse the support discussions at Apple.com sometime). Double-click on your base station (above), which will bring up the more detailed manual window.

Then, select the Base Station menu at the top, and click on “Upload firmware…”

You’ll see the options above, thanks to a drop-down menu. I selected firmware version 7.3.1, which was the previous firmware download. In essence, you’re overwriting the firmware – version 7.3.2 – already on your base station with the previous version. Out with the new, in with the old.

After you select your version and hit “Okay,” Airport Utility will download the firmware and automatically replace the 7.3.2 firmware.

I reset my base station a few times, with Airport Utility, just to make sure everything was a-okay. But when Airport Utility recognized the fresh old firmwared-version of my base station, I saw that it worked:

Hoo-ha. Version 7.3.1. We’re now running on the old software in both Airport Utility and on the base station itself. And see that little button with the 7.3.2 update on it. Don’t dare touch it. We know better now.

Hey, if Apple can’t came out with great new stuff, we’ll just use the old stuff that works, right?

But now came the test. Would my iBook find the base station’s Airport signal? Could I connect to the USB drive and actually save some files and open my iPhoto library?

You bet. Everything now works as normal. I can connect to wifi, and my USB drive’s wackiness comes to an end.

So lesson learned: wait longer than normal on things like firmware updates. And when you can’t find a solution, revert back to the old way of doing things. This is a problem, though, when security issues are addressed in new software updates. If you revert to the old version, do you risk leaving yourself open to attack?

Shame on Apple for not fixing the Airport Extreme Base Station firmware and Utility. We just have to do it ourselves in a roundabout way.

22 comments.

  1. This has been very much on my mind for months. I have a “UFO” Airport Extreme 802.11g which needs to be power cycled, from every day to once a week. If I roll back the firmware it works flawlessly, at the cost of key features (WPA, NAT-PMP, Back To My Mac…)

    I’m just about to pack it in and buy a (gasp!) third-party router. I had thought I’d just upgrade to Apple’s 802.11n router, but it sounds like a frying pan/fire situation…

  2. Dave, thank you – I will try it after work tonight. I can’t even get my Macbook now to even FIND the base station unless I hard wire it, so I will do that so that I can click on it to allow manual setup.

    Thank you in advance for the work you did on this – and to the unnamed Apple tech! I’ll let you know what happens!

  3. Steve: isn’t that weird? I love my Airport Base Station mainly because of the USB air disk capabilities and printer sharing, so if you’re into that kind of thing I’m not sure who else provides it. But unless Apple fixes this firmware, I won’t recommend it.

    Cheri: good luck! Please let me know how it works out, or if you need help.

  4. Well, I am online as you see – but I still can’t get my Macbook to find the base station. I have one cable plugged in from the base station to my internet cable modem. Then I took a 2nd cord and attached that between the 2nd port on the back of the base station and my Macbook. The light is flashing yellow on the base station, but it’s allowing me to be hard wired to be online. So the connection is working but since there’s no wireless, even wired I can’t find the base station.

    Which sucks b/c last week I could. And last week I could use my Airport Express. It’s like there was a virus in this base station and each day one more thing wouldn’t work till it got to the point I have been the last week – no wireless period.

    So blinking yellow, I’m online hard wired, but all I get is “rescan” when I open Airport Utility. What I think I may do is dump Airport Utility out of the Macbook and reload it off the disc that came with the base station. My Macbook (bought it right about 1 year ago) came with Airport Utility preloaded, so I am wondering if there is some sort of conflict.

    I have to be halfway to the Apple store in Phoenix on Saturday so I may just make an appt and have them do that there so I don’t screw this up any worse than it already is!

    So great that you found this fix! After being a PC user for 25 years, I’ve been loving my Mac. Just don’t love the wireless equipment!

    Thanks for all the help – I’m sure you will help so many people with your fix!!

  5. I had to uninstall Airport Utility and install the one on my original disc too. I think version 5.1 is the one to run, not the updated 5.2 – that gives people problems, from what I’ve read. Have you tried just unplugging your base station for about 10 seconds, then plugging it back in? That usually resets everything well enough for me.

  6. [...] Station: something’s rotten in the state of Cupertino [Update: I think I found a fix - see here.]Just when I thought I found a solution to my Airport Extreme Base Station issue, the problem crops [...]

  7. I have unplugged it and the Express so many times that the cords are worn out (j/k). I have even tried plugging in to another power strip. I left both unplugged for DAYS then retried when you saw my above post. They are both now in boxes in the corner of my room and I am still hard wired. Made the appt with local Apple store to see how many of them will have to look at this on Saturday, LOL…..

  8. Make sure to give them the what-for while you’re there. Maybe even give you a new one. Good luck!

  9. I think my Airport Utility application is corrupted.
    The check for updates link leads always to a communication error with the update server and an invitation to check my network settings and try again which I have done many times.
    I would like to ask davelawrence8 how he did his uninstall and reinstall , is it just a matter of throwing an icon in the trash and replacing it, or something more subtle?

  10. Good question, Tom. Uninstalling the Airport Utility is as easy as a toss in the trash, but I use an app called AppDelete, which works to remove the application AND the pref files and all the other stuff that’s on your hard drive – that’s what I recommend. To reinstall, I used the version on the disc that came with my base station.

  11. Thanks a lot for the useful post. I (ironically) just downgraded my Airport Extreme to 7.3.2 firmware (7.4.1 just produced havoc in my system) and reading your step-by-step was totally useful.

    Thanks again and welcome to my rss feed.

  12. Thanks Pancho! – glad you found it useful. I just hope Apple fixes this issue, and soon.

  13. I just downgraded from 7.4.1 to 7.3.1. I’ve been having no shortage of problems once I connect a USB drive to the AirPort Extreme. I’ve never really had any problems before this. I really hope this downgrade will ‘fix’ the problem for me!

  14. Alas, reverting to 7.3.1 did not fix my connectivity problems. Everything connects and works for a short while. Once I start accessing my AirDisk, after a short while (maybe 1/2 hour) it stops working. In fact, using the AirPort Utility can’t even find my Airport Extreme base station at this point. The only workaround I’ve found is to unplug the power on the Airport Extreme and plug it back in. Then everything starts working for a short while.

    I tried to downgrade my AirPort utility to 5.1, but I couldn’t find it on the net. And, my installation disk comes with a later version, 5.3.2 (that’s from memory; could be wrong).

    Anybody have any suggestions???

    P.S. The Airport Express is running in bridged mode; it needs to connect to another router, since the other router doubles as an ADSL modem. I’ve turn off wireless on this other router (which only supports Wireless B standard). The other router is set to use DHCP, while the Airport Express does not. Before purchasing an external hard drive and trying to use it as an AirDisk, this setup was working nearly flawlessly for me (maybe had to restart once or twice in 4+ months of operation).

  15. Notre, just off the top of my head, it might be the Utility that’s giving you the problems. My solution was a double-edged sword: use the older Utility AND the older firmware. Maybe check Apple’s support site?

  16. Thanks Dave for the reply. I just checked the Apple support site, in the download section. I couldn’t find a download for Airport Utility 5.1. I could only find 5.3.1, 5.3.2 and 5.4. I’m running Leopard…

  17. I think I’ve solved my original problem. I still have one problem remaining, and I have an idea on how to solve that one (hopefully).

    The original problem was that my connection to the Airport Extreme would timeout or otherwise get lost after a ‘short while’. I did downgrade to the earlier firmware, and this did not help with this problem (although it likely had other benefits in general stability).

    My connection happened to be working at the time when my wife plugged an ethernet cable into her laptop. Then my connection was lost. I thought that maybe it was an issue with DHCP. In my earlier post, I mentioned that I have two routers (Airport Extreme & another) in my configuration. The other router was handing out dynamic IP addresses. My Airport Extreme was configured to get its IP address dynamically. I reconfigured the Airport Extreme so that its IP address was assigned statically. Bingo! Stability problems have vanished and I’ve yet to have a connection drop after making this change.

    The remaining problem is that after doing some disk activity with the AirDisk (I think this is what causes it), when I tried to quit some (unrelated) applications, they won’t always quit. Force quiting doesn’t work either. And when I try to shutdown, it won’t shutdown my computer either; the menu strip disappears but the Dock remains visible and active. The only way I can shutdown the computer is to hold down the power button.

    Once I assigned the static IP address to the Airport Extreme, I reformatted some of the partitions in the external harddrive that I was using as AirDisks, making them using HFS+ with journaling. Then I setup the AirDisks to be used as backup sources for Time Machine. (Yeah, I know it’s not supported with Airport Extreme).

    My theory is that when the Airport Disks are in use (e.g. for backup) when my MacBook decides to go to sleep, this is causing trouble. So, I’ve changed my energy savings preferences to never sleep. Fingers crossed, this will stop my AirDisks / Time Machine from getting into a confused state and might help my shutdown / app quit problems. I’ll report back in a few days to let others know how it goes.

  18. Just as a follow up, disabling the sleep functionality on my MacBook seemed to resolve the problems with application quiting / system shutdown. I’m once again a happy Mac user!

  19. Nice work, Notre. It sucks you had to do all that work and research to find a solution, but that seems to be the case with these new Airport updates. Apple needs to get on this and fix it…like, yesterday.

  20. I’m afraid to say that after more than a week and 1/2 of flawless operation, my problem has recurred. I still have the static IP address assigned and my computer is set to never sleep. I don’t know what changed. Out of desperation, I’m ‘upgrading’ the firmware to 7.4.1.

  21. my new airport extreme (n) works only once in a while. iphones work flawlessly with linksys router at office and friends houses, but at home, the apple router is a clunker. i must continually re-enter password and half the time iphones will say “unable to join network”, no further explaination! What do I do? Buy a cheapy linksys that works?

  22. Hello, I have recently purchased an Airport Express (n) off of ebay and now find that it only has firmware version 6.3 and I need the newest version(s). I cannot find ANY way to download the new firmware, all the links on the apple site do not work and point to the same page, the way of checking for updates just says there are no updates and if I go to change the firmware like in your picture 2 I only have older versions. I cannot find ANY mirrors of any new firmware. How do I get it? Can anyone help me? The airport express is pretty useless without it, guess the person who sold it me had it in a box for a while….

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