• How to find old Airport Express/Extreme/Time Capsule firmware

    Most of the time using Apple products is a pleasure, but just occasionally they make things unnecessarily complicated and obscure. Finding legacy Airport Extreme firmware falls into the latter category.

    I ran into this issue today. There’s a new 7.5.2 firmware update that I’d like to apply to my base station, but before I do that, I wanted to make sure I had the old firmware version as a backup. This is because I’ve had issues in the past where Time Machine has stopped backing up to my Airport Disk after a firmware update (when going to 7.4.2 specifically), and if this happens again, I want to be able to downgrade back to 7.4.1 (which is what I’m on today).

    Apple has a few articles on their site that list the various versions of Airport Extreme firmware and Airport Utility downloads, but the older firmware download links just send you to an article about updating your Airport, and provide no links to download the software. Awesome.

    After digging around for the last hour, I found this forum post where Bob Timmons (bless his soul) explains the super-secret handshake necessary to find old firmware versions.

    And so, without further ado, here it is (drumroll please).

    To start with, figure out what version of the Airport/Time Capsule you have: you don’t want to download and install the wrong firmware for your base station or bad things could happen. When you open Airport Utility and select your base station from the list, it will tell you what hardware revision you have. Mine says “Airport Utility found an Airport Extreme 802.11n (1st Generation).” So, I now know that the only firmware I am interested in is that for the Airport Extreme 802.11n (1st Generation).

    To see a list of all the firmware for all Airport/TIme Capsule devices, open Airport Utility, open the File menu, hold down Option, and click “Check for Updates.” Doing so presents you (after a few seconds of load time) with a list of firmware for every Airport product Apple has ever made. You can scroll through the list looking for the firmware version you want. Some of the firmware version names were abbreviated cutting off the generation of the device, and you can’t resize the window (awesome UI, guys… seriously, somebody at Apple was asleep at the wheel with this whole firmware thing). The good news is that if you mouse over the abbreviated firmware entry, a tooltip will pop up to show you the details you can’t see.

    To download one or more firmware packages, check the boxes for the items you want and click the “Download” button. The files are downloaded to the path /Users/yourusername/Library/Application Support/Apple/AirPort/Firmware/ and shoved into a sub-directory for the product ID of your Airport (which in my case is 104). Firmware files are named version.basebinary.

    Finally, to install a firmware version, open up the Manual Setup window for your base station, open the Base Station menu, select “Upload Firmware…”, and select the version you want to install from the list.

    Easy as kicking yourself in the face with both feet.

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