2 Ways to "Fix" an Airport Express

Alternative: Keyhole Surgery

Airport Express Surgery A Nicer "Fix" without a hacksaw. Come back here for details on the connections.

More alternatives including running it of USB.

Hack[saw] Alert

This is for the crazy ones.
Those who like to make or hack things.
Void the warranties.

For those who are not satisfied doing the reasonable thing
buying a new one!

This repair guide is for the original Airport Express M9470LL/A, model A1084 which was made from 2004-2008. The newer model from 2008 is not identical.

Should the repair not work - don't worry too much. The newest AirPort is now cheaper and available from Apple or Amazon: Apple AirPort Express

You need a few tools like a soldering iron, a hacksaw or a hand drill. Some patience and the desire to look inside closed boxes figuring out how things work. This is much the same thought which lies behind by my software File Juicer too, but you may find more hacks of this kind at make: magazine particularily this similar hack: iPod Vehicular Power which is a bit more complicated as it has to live of the 12 "unstable" volts in a car.

An other possible useful variation of this hack is to use 2 voltage regulators instead and use it for making your car receive iTunes. I think you could leave it on permanently as it will take several days to drain the cars battery.

MacBiduille has a lot of information about AirPort Express - including Schematics.

Hacksaw

Hacksaw vs Airport Express

I found the clues for this in the forum on hardmac.com - particularily the 3.3/5 volt tip and the function of the burnt off power swich from Fairchild (specs).

Fasten the dead Airport and saw through the 3 sides. The case is made of 3 mm polycarbonate. Take a look at the pictures so you can see where you need to be careful.

The goal is to split it in 2 parts

  1. the power supply (which will be thrown away)
  2. the wi-fi part

The Power Supply

Burnt Power Supply - Airport The power supply which will be replaced

This is the power supply in the Airport. The close-up is where I could see burn marks. The chip "DM0265R CVE36" has spewn its guts onto the 2 components above.

I had no plans of "fixing" anything using 110/220 volts. So I replaced it with a power brick, a 3.3 volt voltage regulator and 2 capacitors.

On hardmacs forum others have already tried to fix it by replacing the power chip from Fairchild and the blown fuse - some without success so other components have failed too, but now in November 2011 one with success!

Spare Parts

Parts needed I bougth my spare parts from Conrad in Germany, but they also have a more international site (mostly EU).

SparkFun Electronics from Colorado also sell the essential parts: 3.3 volt regulator, 100 nF capacitor, 100 uF capacitor

The basis for the repair is a normal 5 volt DC power brick, which need to supply 5 volts but also a stabilized 3.3 volts to the Airport.

A fuse - which I will add before I leave it running
5 Volt power supply (Not on stock - I found an other one)
100µF capacitor
100nF ceramic capacitor
Voltage regulator 3.3 Volt ( Specifications)
Stripboard (used in the keyhole surgery)
1 ampere fuse - the Airport use 500 mA so this should be enough.

2 extra items for the keyhole surgery fix.
DC plug - female the shell is not used
10 mm plastic plug for the drilled hole

I ordered the parts tursday, Conrad sent them friday and I got them tuesday - unfortunately not the power supply which was not currently available.

I got this tip from Jon L. Gardner: If one was to put the Airport Express in a car a prebuilt ITX power supply can do the job as well.

voltage regulator

An other cool tip from The Netherlands allow you to use power bricks with a bit more than 5 volts!



Other Part Suppliers

Maplin Electronics with the following part numbers has also been reported as working by Adrian Winnard

Connections

Connections This comes from the manual to the 3.3 volt regulator .

Soldering

Solderingeht Parts This was difficult even with the string to keep everything together. Put Stripboard on the spare part list too!

Power Bricks

Power Bricks

Here are 2 power bricks I found on my gadget shelf.

The left is a general purpose model which can be set to 4.5 or 6 volts. 4.5 was almost enough and the Airport could run from it as it really gave 4.8 volts - it did reboot from time to time by itself. 6 volts (really 6.5) was too much and both the read and green light turned on. I took this as a bad sign.

The right one is 5 volts DC - just what is needed. It also needs to be able to supply 650 mA. This one was smaller and lighter than the general purpose one, and it does not waste as much power to heat.

Alternative Power Sources

USB power for Airport Express USB can provide 5 Volts, and the power if taken directly from the Mac. Here is Wei's photo of an Airport Express running of the USB port with the help of a IDE to CF adapter. Chcek out the detailed how to!. Thanks to Wei for this tip!

An ATX Power Supply may also do (thanks to Frederick Mutzel)

An other cool tip from The Netherlands allow you to use power bricks with a bit more than 5 volts!

Lights & Music

Completed repairI will keep it like this for a few days and then carefully tape it closed with gaffer tape - without making any short circuits. The new little 3.3 volt power converter may need to sit outside the tape to stay cool.



Contact: Henrik - feedback at echoone dot com.