We continue to report on the issue of AirPort Base stations (including the AirPort Extreme Base station, AirPort Express, and older units) suddenly refusing to operate properly -- unable to access the Internet, transfer print jobs, etc. -- continues to be a prominent detractor to an otherwise solid product line.
Symptoms of this issue are usually as follows: A base station configured and working properly, allowing connected Macs and Windows machines access to Web sites, e-mail and other Internet functions; as well as allow intra-network activity like sending of print jobs and file transfers to occur. Suddenly, the base station becomes non-functional. It remains on, and can be viewed from the AirPort menubar item, generally with no degradation of apparent signal strength, but disallows any connectivity to the Internet and cannot send print jobs to USB or Ethernet-connected printers.
Emerging as the most commonly successful solution for this issue is a downgrade of AirPort Base station firmware to version 5.5.1. Reverting (or updating to) this edition of the firmware has eliminated dropouts for a surprisingly high number users. The current AirPort Extreme firmware version, with which many users are experiencing dropouts, is 5.7.
In order to install firmware version 5.5.1, simply download the package, launch the updater application and follow the on-screen instructions, selecting your afflicted Base station.
A couple caveats: This workaround is only applicable to AirPort Extreme Base stations, not AirPort Express or regular AirPort Base stations. Also, downgrading your firmware potentially poses some significant security risks that should not be overlooked. By reverting, you'll also lose the enhancements made in the latest firmware edition (5.7), including purported performance enhancements.
Still, the astounding success with which this workaround has been applied makes it a good option for users who cannot reasonably use their AirPort Extreme Base stations for extended periods of time.
As described by one reader:
"I have about 60 Airports, all Extremes. We had continual issues with them 'freezing.' No pattern could be seen at all. Power outages sometimes accompanied them. We'd have to visit them and power down/ power up to get them working again. My Apple rep told me the solution was using the updater for firmware version 5.5.1. Worked like a charm. We haven't had a return of the issue."
MacFixIt reader Garvin Boudle adds:
"We have 12 Airport Extreme base stations and all started to drop like flies after upgrading to the latest firmware. After three weeks of restarting the units, I downgraded the firmware to the previous version and have not seen one problem since. The problem has nothing to do with NAT as that function is not in use."