How to replace your router with an AirPort Express, Extreme, or Time Capsule

Time capsule
Time capsule (Image credit: iMore)

I recently picked up Apple's latest AirPort Express base station for our house to replace my aging first-generation Express. On my drive home, I mentally began calculating the insanity of reconfiguring all our connected HomeKit devices with the new router, but it turns out I didn't need to: Apple provides a one-tap option for setting up your new AirPort to clone and replace your old network, no hassle required.

Here's how you go about doing it.

How to replace your router with an AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme, or Time Capsule

  1. Plug in your new AirPort next to your old router. Don't move any wires just yet.
  2. On your iPhone, open Settings > Wi-Fi and wait until you see the Set Up New AirPort Base Station field below Choose a Network.
  3. Tap on the new AirPort to join it. Once connected, it will automatically offer to extend your current network. Tap Other Options and then tap Next to proceed.

  1. Select Replace an Existing Device.
  2. Choose whether the existing device is an older AirPort or a non-Apple router and press Next.
  3. Select the Wi-Fi network your AirPort is replacing and enter its password, if necessary.

  1. Your AirPort will then copy over that station's settings. Once finished, it will prompt you to switch over any Ethernet wires you had connected to the old router.

And with that, you're done! Feel free to get rid of your old base station, or move it to another part of your house to extend your network.

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

  • Quick Question. Right now I have an Asus Router and it has the ability built in to set up a VPN. I can then connect to my ASUS VPN from anywhere in the world and access my networked hard drives. Does the Airport routers have a similar feature or would I have to find a 3rd party solution?
  • AFAIK Airport routers dont support VPNs
  • They can't serve VPNs but they can port forward VPN connections.
  • Perfect timing on this. I just bought a new Time Capsule and will be replacing my older generation Airport Extreme and using it to extend my network. Thanks!
  • Perhaps you can enlighten us to the reasoning behind the polarized reviews posted at the Apple Store.
  • Simple. Its expensive AF
  • Aside from price, it requires a proprietary app to do even the smallest configuration. That's like the lowest possible standard for a router.
  • This. It’s nice to have a GUI but you should also be able to do basic things from a regular browser.
    What has really irked me from day one though is the lack of a built in modem. Means I need two boxes instead of one.
  • That's so cool. I have gone through several $300+ routers in the past four years, so I finally gave up and went for an Airport Extreme. It has been the best router I've ever had by far! I didn't know about this, so I set it up normally, but I set it up with all the same settings as the previous router. The only issue I've run into since then is that the Airport does not appear to support WPS anymore. I know it did when I got it last summer, because that's how I set up the wireless adapter for my DVR, but when I tried to add a printer, I noticed the function had vanished.
  • It does support WPS. You need to open the Edit function in Airport Utility and go to the Base Station menu. The "Add WPS" option should be there.
  • Is that only on the Mac? I only have Windows PCs and iOS devices. I can't find this option in the Windows Airport Utility (or the iOS one).
  • Apple routers are great for people who don't know much about tech. No so good for those who know what an ip address is.
  • Not so good how? Without knowing how you arrived at that conclusion, your IP address comment is a tad condescending.
  • Lame comment. Really lame. I just replaced a MicroTik routerboard with an AirPort Extreme. Since you are all fancy, you should know what MicroTik is. For everyone else - it's an isp grade router. It is full of advanced functions, but it has a problem with Wifi power saving mode, which meant my network getting flooded with deauthentification attempts on certain devices, at least once a day. With the apple router, the problem went away instantly. As for Serenity's thought on the insanity of reconfiguring - even if you upgrade from a non Apple setup, all you have to do is create a network with the same ssid, encryption type and password, and potentially reboot some of your devices (my Apple TV 1 needed a restart - the brand new one didn't - my old thermostat didn't either). Sent from the iMore App
  • Part of my backup files is I always Export all the Configuration files of the Airports, Expresses and Time Capsule. For me a Time Capsule is the Main router and everything connects to it. So I export this Configuration file, put in a backup folder on my Computer which I know is part of my main backup and two redundant backup drives - then when I buy a new or replacement an Apple TC, I just boot it up, and Import this exported config file and I'm done. So I do recommend people export their Airport or router configuration files and save them So much easier when something goes wacky or you need to replace a unit.
  • JustMeWhoElse: In my house the 5 year old TC is also the main router. We've been having problems with it lately dropping wifi connections and I'd like to replace it, but I don't know how to move the info from the old TC to the new. Can you please provide step-by-step instructions for exporting the configuration file and loading all info from an old TC to a new one? Thanks!
  • It's quite simple really and is probably easier than the process described in the post: Open Airport Utility
    Click on your Airport router
    Click Edit
    Go to the File menu: Export Configuration File (note the Import Configuration File menu item for later) When you get the new unit, go through the same steps and Import Configuration File. I haven't done either of these yet but I do agree with the commenter, having a backup of that config file in case the router has problems and needs to be reset is useful by itself.
  • Great post. I'm considering replacing a two year old AirPort Extreme with a Time Capsule and I'll be using this post to get me through it. Thanks.
  • I actually swapped and selling my 3TB AirPort Time Capsule for a Netgear Nighthawk X4. The AirPort Time Capsule is a great device but as a Network Engineer, I need more options and features.
  • Do you want an insane fast and secure router?, I just picked up the Netgear NightHawk AC5300, it has eight antennas up to 5.3 gigs per second, the best router I have experienced, insane fast secure speeds Tri Beam AC smart router, nothing against Apple but their router can't touch that.
  • Unfortunately my ISP is Verizon FiOS and it doesn't play well with Apple routers. I had an awesome AirPort Extreme with my old ISP, but when I switched to FiOS, it stopped working. Verizon using a modem/router combo, and even though I tried disabling the Wi-Fi on their router, so I could use it as just a modem, I still couldn't get the AEBS to connect to the Internet.
  • What is an easy way to block certain devices (like network cameras) from accessing the Internet without preventing them from being accessible on the local network?
  • Nah. OpenWRT of GTFO!!
  • OK Serenity, here is a simple but loaded question for you:
    Some device is hogging all your bandwidth. How do you find it using AirPort Utility? The answer is you can't. Apple removed SNMP support so you can't even do it with a third party app. My home is entirely Apple router based. I love their ease of use and rock solid stability (something I never got before from any other router). However with all the WiFi devices on my network, finding which one has some app that just decided to upload its soul (and all my data) to the Internet is not easy to do. I end up just running around turning everything off and hoping to see the bandwidth jump when I do. This is a massive epic fail on Apple's part and yes I have filed at least two extensive developer bug reports on this issue over the past few years.
  • What if I'm upgrading from a non apple router is it that easy? Sent from the iMore App
  • It's pretty easy to upgrade to any Apple router.
  • Easiest setup you'll ever encounter. Its a whole different world!