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Cross-platform AirPort Wireless Networks

Updated May 9, 2008

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Click here for older tips and reports about Windows PCs and AirPort networks.

See Apple tech article 107418 for dealing with problems printing using the AirPort Express and AirPort Extreme base stations.

Tutorial: How to add a PC to an AirPort Express Mac established Network

June 4, 2007

Piper Karie sent us this tutorial for Windows XP [Vista is similar, see this note below]:

I added my Sony tower with Windows XP Pro SP2 to my Mac network, which is running on an AirPort Express that is connected to a broadband cable modem.

It took a while and I wrote down my final, victorious solution, which you can read below. I have also posted this info on the Apple Forum at as well.

I use an AirPort Express with two Macs, an iBook G4 and an Intel iMac w/OS X 10.4.9, and a printer. My Sony tower is a few years old, but is fully upgraded, with a third-party wireless USB adapter that I bought at CompUSA two or three years ago on sale. It works great.

To configure the PC for the network:

  1. Boot up the PC and then right-click the wireless (adapter in my case) software on the menu bar.
  2. Select Refresh or Find Available Networks then select the SSID you want to join.
  3. Once the "Current Network Info" appears, click "More Settings."
  4. Under "More Settings" in the wireless LAN configuration window:
    for TX Rate choose "Auto"
    -- for SSID choose "(your preferred network)"
    -- for Network Type choose "Infrastructure"
    -- for Encryption choose "WEP"
    -- for Authentication Mode choose "Shared Key"
  5. Then click the "Apply" button
  6. Click "WEP encryption key setting"
  7. Enter "WEP" password, which is a 128 Hex Key in the WEP Encryption key setting on just one line. There may be half a dozen lines, but only one has to have the passkey, which is described in the section below.
  8. After you get the Password/Hexkey from the Mac (see below) and have it entered on the PC, then UNCHECK the box "The key is provided via 802.1x authentication".
  9. Then click Apply.

My Sony was then online. I rebooted and rechecked my settings to make certain that I had remembered to hit Apply to each of the setting windows that I had entered info in. I had forgotten one, but after the recheck and making certain I had hit 'apply' before closing tabs I was permanently on line.

Getting the Passkey from the Mac

[Note: another reader offers a simpler method below.]

IMPORTANT! Now, here is the trick. You get the code key from your Mac. You can't just enter your standard worded password like you do on the Mac. The PC won’t understand it, so what you MUST do is set up your Macs on the network first. I only have the AirPort Express, but I suspect that the AirPort Extreme is the same.

Once you have set up your Macs with their passwords accepted and have them fully functioning on the Internet, go to one of your Macs. Click the Apple menu, then System Preferences, then click Network. On the Network page where it says, 'Show' click the up/down arrow to AirPort, then double click the AirPort tab to make certain you find the Networks window.

Where it says, "By default join-" Make sure you click the up/down arrow until it says "Preferred Networks."

Then in the window below "Preferred Networks" it should show a full list of networks that you can join and yours should be listed. Double click on the name of your network and a drop down window should appear.

Once it does then you should see your network name and the “secret” password you used to protect your network.

Under that password there is a small blank box and beside it says "SHOW PASSWORD" Click THE BOX. (This is what appears on Mac OS X 10.4.9)

It will show you the full hexadecimal key that you need to enter into your PC for a network password.

DO NOT use the money insignia at the beginning of the password. The password will not work with it included on the PC.

Resetting after a power failure

If you have power surges or brownouts, etc., make certain to reset your Express. I just pull the unit from the outlet or power strip, wait a minute and plug it back in. You have to wait for the unit to cycle through until you get a solid green light for proper operation. Check your Express instructions. Check the Express first if you are having trouble with your Internet connection with any of your computers. I have Comcast Broadband and its signal has fluctuated enough so that resetting the modem and the Express was required only after I had cursed my Sony for a whole session.

The Express is not unique to this problem, since my Belkin router had to be reset just as often.

Good luck and I hope this helps.

if you'd like to comment on this tutorial.

Simplification for adding PCs to AirPort networks

June 6, 2007

Brandon Edling responded to the above tutorial about how to connect a Windows XP PC to an all-Mac AirPort wireless network. He offers a simplification of one of the steps:

With regards to the "Getting the Passcode for the Mac" section: It's a heck of a lot easier to launch the Airport Utility, go into the configuration of the base station, and choose "Equivalent network password" from the Base Station menu.

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TIP: Using AirPort and a non-Apple base station

Monday, September 24, 2007

Nello Pensieri in Rome, Italy, describes how he fixed a problem with AirPort and a non-Apple base station:

I got a MacBook Pro a month ago with 10.4.10 pre-installed. For three days I searched for the reason why AirPort wasn't communicating with my Linksys WRT54G. While I saw some of net problems discussed at MacWindows (slow browsing, connection dropping every 10 minutes and so on), I didn't see a fix, and found nothing at the Linksys web site.The trick was changing the wireless channel of my AirPort to nr. 5 (2.432GHz). Now everything's working fine. Anyone with a problem working with AirPort and a base station other than Apple's Airport Base Station must try to optimize her AP configuration to meet the best of client.

TIP: Connecting Vista to AirPort network

Monday, January 14, 2008

C. Cantu sent us an update to our tutorial on connecting Windows PCs to an AirPort network. The tutorial described Windows XP; Cantu said that it's slightly different for Windows Vista:

My girlfriend just purchased a PC laptop with Windows Vista. My house has 2 G4's on an AirPort Express. The PC was receiving the AirPort signal but wouldn't go online. She spent almost 2 hours with the HP tech guy until he just disconnected the call. However I googled "using pc with airport" and the MacWindows AirPort page (airportpc.html) was the first listing. We followed the directions, but with Vista it's a little different. You just follow the Vista wizard for connecting to a wireless network. When it asks for the code key you just enter the hex key from the Mac as it says on your page. It worked on the first try!

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Extending a free Wi-Fi connection, PC and Mac

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Jennifer Hearing would like to have her Mac connect to a PC that has access to a Wi Fi connection:

My sister and I moved into an apartment that offers wireless Internet. Here PC can pick up the wireless signal in her room, but my room is too far away to get the signal. Since we are not "plugged in" to the hub station, I am trying to find a way to connect to her PC from my MAC so I can get the Internet connection.

I looked into AirPort Express, but was told it works only if the modem/main router is the Extreme, which my apartment manager doesn't have.

My Mac: G5 OS X 10.4.10

Suggestions follow below.

Suggestions on how to extend a PC wi fi connection to a Mac

Friday, May 9, 2008

Readers sent in suggestions to a Tuesday's reader question about extending a wireless connection. In this situation, a PC picks up a free Wi Fi connection in one room of a house. The question is how to get a Mac in another room connected.

Dave Green suggests adding a wireless repeater, also known as a range extender:

She could install a Wireless Range Extender in her roommate's room, which would probably provide a strong signal throughout their apartment. Since the roommate's room has a strong enough signal for her PC to pick up, the range extender should also be able to pick it up.

I helped a friend install one yesterday, a Linksys Wireless-G Range Extender. But we were unable to configure it from a Mac. By using a PC and connecting to the Extender's IP address through Internet Explorer we successfully configured it with the WEP encryption to match the main access point.

Bhaba Misra suggests an AirPort Express connected to the PC via Ethernet:

Assuming that she doesn't want to get a "wireless repeater" specifically compatible with her landlord's access point. She can still use an Airport Express. Have the PC share it's wireless Internet connection with its wired Ethernet port. Connect the PC's Ethernet port to the Express and have it share over its connection.

Steve Sien suggests using two wireless cards in the PC:

You can use "Internet Connection" sharing on the PC, it gets the internet and passes it on to the Mac. But you will need another wireless network card on the PC. One wireless card receives and one sends on different address subnets. Here is an explanation.

Mike Vidal offers a variation:

It's a little hard to visualize, but from what I read of the description, what the user can do is buy a cheap wireless router, disable DHCP, set up internet sharing on the laptop, plug the Ethernet port of the PC into one of Ethernet ports of the wireless router, and presto, a wireless access point. Cheaper to do it this way than to buy a dedicated access point, and since the computer will dole out addresses, she should be good to go.

As an aside, this is a trick that I use when setting up wireless in a facility, where managed devices is not a requirement.

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