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TIP: Get Apple's AirPort Express working with WEP and DHCP
Posted by Arne Hess - on Tuesday, 10.08.04 - 13:06:01 CET under 09 - Thoughts - Viewed 12478x
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If you are using Apples AirPort Express access point (I've recently reviewed) and you want to get it working with WEP encryption you might face the one or the other problem.
Indeed there seems to be a serious problem in the combination WEP encryption and DHCP functionality. While DHCP works great without any encryption enabled (doesn't matter if you use 40 or 128 bit), DHCP isn't working anymore if you have enabled WEP encryption which means your connected Notebook or Pocket PC won't receive an IP address and therefore it can not access the LAN, WAN or Internet.

This happened for me on weekend when I've fine-tuned the different profiles you can create with the AirPort Express. While my general test profile is without encryption (just for the quick and dirty access/test) my regular profiles includes WEP for sure.

A Google search gave me some ideas what went wrong so this tutorial is nothing I've figured out but I think it's important enough to republish what happened and what to do.

You know something serious went wrong if you enabled WEP in the access point profile and after you reboot the AirPort Express, it's not recognized anymore by the Apple's configuration utility:

It might still appears in your Wi-Fi selection of available networks (here Windows XP's SP2 Wi-Fi utility) and you might can connect with it (physically) but your Notebook won't get a valid IP address assigned:

Well, for any reason there seems to be a problem with the WEP key you've entered in the configuration utility. Normally these keys are a "token" of hexadecimal characters like"ad74f4be".
However, if you enter this WEP key for any reason the Express access point isn't assigning an IP address by DHCP anymore.

To resolve this problem, you have to add a "$" in front of your hexadecimal key. So do the following:

  • Soft-reset the access point by pressing the small soft reset button
  • Wait until the configuration utility recognizes your access point again
  • Login to the utility and open the AirPort page:
  • Open "Security" and select the security level
  • Now add your WEP key and don't forget to add the "$" in the beginning:

    Instead of entering ad74f4be - enter $ad74f4be

 That's it. Save and reboot your access point and from now your wireless devices like Pocket PCs and Notebooks should get a WEP enabled IP address, asssigned by AirPort Express' DHCP server.

Cheers ~ Arne


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Posted by Thomas Wolfram on 11.08.04 - 05:23:01

Well, actually there is no serious problem. The '$' is required for all Apple APs. It tells the AP that the key is a hex key and not a text (ASCII) password.

$-signs to mark hex numbers is an older notation. Some other APs require to use the C/C++ notation (a leading 0x).

In any case, it's not a bug but a feature.

Posted by Arne Hess on 11.08.04 - 09:59:13

[1] Thanks Thomas. Haven't heard about that before and all my other APs doesn't requires that workaround. Also I've never said it's a bug but since it isn't documented in the Express manual I thought it's a good idea to re-post it here as a tip to save others time. ;-)

Posted by DubWireless on 12.08.04 - 02:03:53

Wow, are Apple they still not adding that to the manual! I remember the first time setting up a PC with an Airport AP and that had me stuck for a good while while I treid to Google my way out of it...

P.S. Arne - sent you an email - hope to got my email and can catch up on IM over the weekend?

Posted by Rod H on 22.09.04 - 19:49:54

Arne - Thanks for the tip!!
Very useful as I was pouring through the docks and could not find anything about "$" !!

Posted by xman on 02.10.04 - 16:54:04

I am amazed that apple does not clearly and obviously document this little item. It's a real pain in the neck.

you'd think the folks at apple don't know that mac users connect to pc wireless access points.
thanks for saving us.

Posted by Rowland on 26.11.04 - 00:00:41

3 hours of apple support + 1 replaced Airport did nothing until this little gem. Would apple wake up - there are legions of PC users (I know I know) out there who will be stymied without this absolutely crucial piece of inf.
Many thanks

Posted by ColdPlay on 08.07.06 - 13:33:31

Thanks Arne, you made my day. I'm not an Apple user neither but recently bought the Express access point as well. Never knew how to get WEP working until I found your page! Thanks for the help!

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