How to Set up Apple AirPort Express

Wirelessly share speakers and printers with other computers

Apple's AirPort Express Wi-Fi base station lets you wirelessly share devices like speakers or printers with other computers.

Using Airport Express, you can connect any home speaker to a single iTunes library, effectively creating a wireless home music network. You can also use AirPrint to wirelessly print documents to printers in other rooms.

Whatever the reason, with AirPort you can wirelessly share data from your Mac with just an electrical outlet and some configurations. We'll show you how in this guide.

Apple discontinued AirPort and AirPort Express in April 2018. That means the hardware is no longer sold and the software no longer maintained, but there are still products available on the secondary market.

Plug in the AirPort Express Base Station

Start by plugging the AirPort Express into an electrical outlet in the room where you would like to use it.

Setting up Airport Express, step 1
Apple Inc.

If you don't already have the AirPort Utility software installed, install it from the CD that came with the AirPort Express, or download it from Apple's website.

The AirPort Utility software comes loaded with Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) through 10.13 (High Sierra), so you don't need to download it on those operating systems.

Launch the AirPort Utility Program

After you install the AirPort Utility program, follow these steps:

  1. Launch AirPort Utility. Once it starts, you’ll see the AirPort Express base station listed in the left pane. Single-click to highlight it, if it's not already highlighted.

    AirPort Utility with Airport Express selected
  2. Complete the fields on the right side. Give the AirPort Express a name and a password that you'll remember so you can access it later. 

    Setup screen for Airport Express in AirPort Utility
  3. Select Continue.

    Airport Utility on a Mac with Continue highlighted

Choose the Airport Express Connection Type

Next, you'll need to decide what kind of Wi-Fi connection you want to set up.

  1. Choose whether you're connecting the AirPort Express to an existing Wi-Fi network, replacing another, or connecting via Ethernet. Select an option and then select Continue.

    AirPort Utility on a Mac
  2. A list of the available wireless networks will display. Select the appropriate network and click Continue.

  3. When the changed settings are saved, the AirPort Express restarts. Once it restarts, the AirPort Express appears in the AirPort Utility window with the new name. It is now ready to use. 

To learn more about AirPort Express and how to use it, check out:

Troubleshooting AirPort Express Problems

The Apple Airport Express base station is simple to set up and a useful addition to any home or office setup, but like most network devices, it's not perfect. Here are some troubleshooting tips if the Airport Express disappears from the speakers list in iTunes:

  • Check the network: Make sure your computer is on the same Wi-Fi network as the AirPort Express.
  • Restart iTunes: If your computer and the AirPort Express are on the same network, try quitting iTunes and restarting it.
  • Check for updates: Make sure you have the most recent version of iTunes installed.
  • Unplug the AirPort Express and plug it back in: Wait for it to restart. When the light turns green, it has restarted and connected to the Wi-Fi network. You may need to quit and restart iTunes.
  • Reset the AirPort Express: You can do this by pressing the reset button on the bottom of the device. This may require a paper clip or other item with a small point. Hold the button for about a second until the light flashes amber. This resets the base station password so you can set it up again using the AirPort Utility.
  • Try a hard reset: This erases all data from the AirPort Express and lets you set it up from scratch with the AirPort Utility. Try this after all other troubleshooting tips have failed. To perform a hard reset, hold the reset button for 10 seconds, then set up the base station once again.