Getting ADSL to your Airport Extreme


Apple is famed for it’s “it just works” technology, and for the most part that’s true. However, when it comes to the Apple Airport Extreme Base Station, it’s lack of a built-in DSL modem means you have a little figuring out to do if you want to use the Airport Extreme as part of an ‘internet connected’ network.

When my Netgear DGN2000 DSL wireless router expired a short time ago I decided to replace it with a Linksys WAG120N DSL wireless router. Great little device (so far) but it’s one drawback is that unlike the Airport Express which has three Gigabit Ethernet ports (1,000Mbps), the Linksys only has Fast Ethernet ports (100Mbps). Now I do large backups every day to two Synology NAS devices and they, like my Mac Pro are equipped with Gigabit Ethernet ports. Connecting them via the Linksys alone would just create a bottleneck and slow down my data transfers ten fold! Enter the Airport Extreme – the objective is to use the Airport Extreme as the centre of my wired network, but to also have internet access at the same time. Sure, I’m lucky enough to have two ethernet ports on the Mac Pro so I could connect one to the Airport Extreme and the other to the Linksys, but that’s messy plus not all Macs have two network ports. At it’s simplest, what I wanted was this…

AE Config 00

Basic Network Configuration

The first step is to set up the Linksys DSL router as normal, so connect the Mac to it via a cable and log in to it as per the manufacturers instructions. Give the DSL router your ISP details and configure it with an IP address of 192.168.1.1 and a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0. Next it’s a case of configuring the network settings on your Mac to talk directly to the DSL router, so enter System Preferences, choose Network and make sure that your Mac has an IP address (e.g. 192.168.1.4) on the same subnet as the DSL router, and tell it that the router it should talk to is at address 192.168.1.1. At this point you should have a simple network of your Mac and the DSL router and you should be able to surf the internet. Next I connected an ethernet cable to one of the Linksys routers four ports with the other end going to the ‘WAN” port on the Airport Extreme. Now it was a case of firing up the Airport Utility and manually configuring the Airport Extreme.

AE Config 05

Connect your Airport to your modem/router

In the Airport Utility, once it finds your Airport Extreme Base Station, highlight it and click on the Manual Setup button. Now click on the Ethernet tab at the top ans select Internet Connection. You should set Connect Using to Ethernet, and Connection Sharing to Off (Bridge Mode).

AE Config 01

Internet Connection settings

Now click on the TCP/IP button and choose to configure IPv4 Manually. Now it’s time to gve the Airport Extreme an IP address and tell it how to talk to the outside world.

Give the Airport Extreme an IP address of 192.168.1.2 and a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0 (same as the Linksys). For the Router entry, enter the address of the Linksys, i.e. 192.168.1.1, and for the DNS Server(s) do the same. Here you are telling the Airport Extreme that any traffic that is not for something on your home/local network (e.g. internet traffic), send it to the Linksys router.

AE Config 02

TCP/IP settings

At this point you should be able to save the settings and apply them to your Airport Extreme. The next step is to disconnect the network cable from your Mac to the DSL router, and instead connect the Mac directly to one of the ethernet ports on your Airport Extreme. Now you should find that you can still surf the web but your Mac is only connected to your Airport Extreme. You can then add devices (in my case the two NAS boxes) directly to the Airport Extreme so that they can talk to your Mac at gigabit speeds, rather than just the ‘fast’ speeds of the DSL router.

If you want to use a service like OpenDNS then there’s no reason why you can’t and it’s simply a case of adding the IP addresses of the two OpenDNS servers to your Network settings on your Mac, like so:

AE Config 03

OpenDNS settings on the Mac

I have since extended this setup with wireless and I currently have an XBox 360, a PS 3 Slim, a Nintendo Wii, a Mac Mini, an iPad WiFi and iPhone 3G, plus my Panasonic Viera TV all talking to the internet via this little network. The Linksys DSL router is currently providing the (802.11n) wireless service, but I’m looking at ways to use the Airport Extreme’s ability to provide 5Ghz wirelss to enhance this setup (i.e. avoid interference from my neighbours on the 2.4Ghz band).

More on that in another post…

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3 Responses

  1. Hi,
    Have read through the above post & the one on connecting the Netgear DGN200 to an Airport Extreme.
    I have “successfully” achieved this BUT randomly lose internet connection. Restarting the extreme makes no difference but restarting the Negear fixes this. If there is any trend to this then it would be when one of my other devices wakes up & connects to the Extreme.
    Ideally I would like the Netgear to be purely a modem but am a bit stumped on how to achieve this.
    Any ideas/help would be great.
    Thanks

  2. Hi Michael – have you tried removing the Airport Extreme from the equation and connecting your devices directly to the Netgear? It’s always possible that the line noise you have on your phone line is ‘borderline’ causing your modem to drop the signal occasionally, especially when a device stresses it (e.g. by waking up).

    Lots of things you could try to see if you can make a difference, like:
    - Getting your ISP to check the signal quality.
    - Changing your micro filters (if you use them)
    - Reducing the number of phone devices attached to the circuit
    - Improving ventilation around the modem to keep it cooler
    - Installing the latest firmware, etc.

    My experience is that some modems are more sensitive that others, and it doesn’t always boil down to one make, for example I had a Linksys WRT-something-or-other device that was hopeless and wouldn’t connect for more than 30 seconds, yet my current Linksys WAG120N is fine.

    It’s unlikely that the configuration settings on the modem itself will cause random internet disconnection, but might be worth a call to your ISP to see if there are any settings you could tweak. Good luck.

  3. Hi Robin,
    I know this is an old(ish) post, but I’m in a similar situation. I have an old(er) modem-router without gigabit and want to add a Time Capsule for AC wireless and Gigabit ethernet. Could you please confirm if your Airport Extreme operates in gigabit speeds even though it is (was?) connected to a 100 mbps modem?
    Thanks

    P.S. What was the difficulty in the Airport Extreme providing 5Ghz wireless?

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