External antenna on an Airport Express mod

THE PIECES OF INFORMATION PRESENT ON THIS PAGE ARE PROVIDED AS IT IS WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY OF SUCCESS. I WOULDN’T TAKE ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY DAMAGE OR MISTAKE THAT COULD AFFECT YOUR EQUIPMENT.
! MODIFYING YOUR EQUIPMENT WOULD INEVITABLY VOID ITS WARRANTY !

The Apple Airport Express is a wonderful piece of hardware. The only drawback I have experienced with this device is its relatively low WiFi signal sensitivity.
Having noticed that, I started looking for a way to connect an external antenna to the Airport Express to extend its range …
My second atemp to improve my AE’s range was to add an external WiFi antenna to the apple device.

    Ingredients:

  • A drilling machine (with adjustable speed) + a 7 mm drill.
  • One Apple Airport Express.
  • One External WiFi antenna.

As you can see on the picture bellow, there is an internal antenna connector located inside the Airport Express, on its main board. According to Johnny Express, this connector is used to calibrate and check the Airport Express during its production process.

Dissected Airport Express
Dissected Airport Express

The basic idea is digging a hole on the side of the AE to plug a right angle antenna connector into the mainboard:

Airport Express
Airport Express

The hole has to be 14.4mm far from the side and 3.5mm out of the center of the Airport Express. As you can see on the next picture, I had a first go on the wrong side of the AE!!! I am still wondering why I first dug on the wrong side… Anyway, the second go was a lot “cleaner”. If you don’t have specific equipment to dig plastic like me, I advise to really take your time and to really gently the plastic case.

Holes dug in the Airport Express
Holes dug in the Airport Express

The following picture shows a Linksys access point antenna plugged into the Airport express! Unfortunately, the Linksys antenna connector was not of the right type to plug in correctly into the Airport Express mainboard connector. Simple signal strength measurement showed the WiFi connection was worse with this very antenna than without (because of the connector issue).
Johnny Express suggested I use an antenna or a pigtail with a right angle SSMB jack but I had no such connector or time to get one and try for the moment.

Airport Express fitted with an external antenna
Airport Express fitted with an external antenna

Last but not the least the picture shows how I fixed the hole made by error in the AE. I used the same epoxy mastic than in my vintage bluetooth mouse article. I also put taped the antenna hole to prevent dust to get inside the Airport Express while I don’t use the external antenna.

Detail of the holes in the Airport Express
Detail of the holes in the Airport Express

Links:

4 thoughts on “External antenna on an Airport Express mod”

  1. Hi

    Great mod. I do have two questions.

    1) Can I use any external WIFI Antena? I have a high gain antena and a broken router that I coud use.

    2) Did you get any signal improvement and if so how much?

    Thanks

    Antonio

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  2. Hi Antonio,

    1) Yes you can: you need an antenna or a pigtail ending with an SSMB connector on the end you want to connect to the AE.

    2) I didn’t succeed in connecting an antenna to the connector because I didn’t want to cut open the AE (the hole I drilled isn’t sufficient to connect anything to the connector on the AE’s internal board).

    Regards,

    Bn

    Like

    1. Hi,

      I did not open the airport express, I only drilled a hole on its side. If you google “dissected airport express” you’ll find this page where you’ll find how to open the AE. Unfortunately, the only way to open is it to break/saw it open.

      Cheers!

      Like

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