Anyone with an Internet connection knows that some of type of modem is always called for. It’s usually a rather nondescript (or downright ugly) electronic box that plugs directly into the cable or telephone line that your Internet provider uses to get you connected to the Web. That box then plugs directly into your iMac, Mac Pro, or whichever consumer device or computer you want connected to the Internet. In many cases (probably most these days), the modem is first connected to a type of device known as a router. The router enables your one Internet line to be able to be shared with more than one computer or Internet-capable device in your office or household. Today we’re going to talk about that device that your modem may be connected to, the router. To keep things simple, we’ll focus on one particular router, the Apple router known as the AirPort Extreme Base Station. We’ll show you how to easily set up your Apple router. While we’re at it, we’ll demonstrate how to secure your AirPort Extreme home network.
Apple Router Setup: Physical Connection
Apple usually makes things easy for the consumer, right now to keeping most of its product names simple. Its router, unfortunately, has a rather long name. For purposes of simplicity, we’re going to reduce the name from “AirPort Extreme Base Station” to simply “AirPort” or “router” throughout the rest of this tutorial.
Apple’s router is similar in physical design to other products in the company’s lineup such as the Mac mini and the Apple TV. When placed on or near your modem (or wherever in your office or home location), the front of the router has nothing more than a status light. The sides are unremarkable (since they have nothing but a smooth finish to remark on). The back of the device is what we’ll be using, at least during setup, since it sports a number of ports. This is where you’ll be connecting your modem and other devices.
The first thing you need to do when you open up the box in which your AirPort came is turn off and unplug the modem to which you intend to connect the router. If you’re also going to be connecting your AirPort to an ethernet hub or a networked printer, then I also recommend turning off and unplugging those devices as well. Connect the power cable that Apple included with your AirPort to the first port on the back of the device (the port on the far left). Easy, right? Don’t plug the other end of the power cable into your wall or other power source yet, though. We’re going to be making a few more connections before powering this baby up.
Next, connect an ethernet cable (one of the cables that came with your AirPort or your modem) into the first available ethernet port on the device (unless your modem requires the USB port). This is technically known as the 10/100BASE-T Ethernet WAN port, but you don’t need to know that. Just know that this is the place where you’re plugging your DSL modem, cable modem, or whatever type of ethernet network connection into. Your Internet runs into and out of the router through this port.
At this point you should be able to power up your devices again. Go ahead and plug both your AirPort and your modem back into each device’s power source. By the way, I recommend plugging them into a UPS battery backup/surge protector, but that’s up to you. For now, simply plugging the boxes into your wall’s power outlet(s) will be fine (unless you’re having a heavy thunderstorm). It’ll take a few minutes for both the modem and the router to fully boot up, recognize and check each other out, and get themselves ready for you to have fun with them. Think of it like two dogs meeting for the first time. They’ll be sniffing each other out cautiously until each has decided the other is okay. Then you can continue on your walk.
Apple Router Setup: Configuration
Once your devices have lined up all their pretty lights (check your modem’s manual to see when that occurs), you’re ready to configure your iMac, your Mac Pro, your MacBook, your MacBook Pro, your whatever type of device you want to have connected to the Internet. The router has already done most of the work, so now you simply have to decide which device you wish to use to perform the final configuration tasks. With either iOS (the operating system on iPhones, iPads and iPod touches) or OS X (the operating system for Macs, such as MacBooks and iMacs), a simple setup assistant is built in. Let’s take your iPhone, for example. Simply open up your iPhone’s Settings, and in Wi-Fi Settings tap your AirPort base station to create a new network. Then give it a password and tap Next. Finally, tap Done. You’re connected and ready to surf the Web!
Each iOS device is going to use the same setup assistant. On your Mac running OS X, the setup is essentially the same. In fact, it’s so similar it would be ridiculous for me to explain any of the differences — it would be like telling you that some of the pixels may seem slightly less sharp on your Mac (unless you’re using a MacBook Pro, which has a Retina display). That’s about all there is that’s different.
Apple Router Setup: Security
There’s not much to securing an AirPort. Apple does a very good job at making your Internet connection secure and safe. Still, if you want to go the extra measure, make sure to always create a password that is stupendously difficult for anyone else to guess, but easy enough for you to remember — which is basically impossible, right? I have a pretty good memory, but even I forget what my password is from time to time. So basically, make sure to write down your stupendously difficult password, and then keep it in a stupendously secure place — such as a safe located in a place that nobody knows about (but that you’ll remember having).
That’s it! Enjoy your Apple router, and let me know if I’ve missed anything!
Image: wfryer via Flickr