How Portable is the Airport Express (Mac)?

Here’s why I’m asking. I’m going to my parents’ house for a visit. They have a cable modem and a PC. I have an iBook, and an Airport Express.

Is it possible for me to take the Airport Express there, and hook it up in such a way that I have wireless in their house, and they still have internet access? If so, do I need more than just the Base Station? (For some reason, I think I need a cable splitter, but i don’t know why I think that.)

Any advice, keeping in mind that I am NOT a technologically adept person?

I have an AirPort Extreme base station connected to my cable modem. There is a splitter to split the signal between the television and the modem. I’m using a PowerBook G4 and an iMac G3. My former roommate used a PC laptop and used his wireless modem to connect to the cable via the AirPort.

You will need to know the access information of your parents’ ISP in order to connect. You can set up the account information in AirPort Setup Assistant.

Unless their PC has wireless, this will not work. It sounds like their PC is connected directly to the modem. You would be unplugging the PC and connecting the modem to your Airport Express - which would provide wireless access for your iBook, but no wired access for their PC.

If their PC does have wireless, which is unlikely, you’re all set - basically just plug in your Airport Express and go. For most cable ISPs, you don’t need to enter any configuration information. Their PC and your iBook should see the wireless network automatically, though you might have to turn on wireless on their PC.

Otherwise, you will need a way to provide both wireless access for your iBook, and wired access for their PC. A simple splitter between the modem and their PC / your Airport Express will not work - the Ethernet protocol is not designed to be split like that. Buying an ethernet switch/hub will not work either, because of how the cable modem interacts with the device it is connected to - you need a router.

Your Airport Express is a router, but it provides only wireless access. You need a router with wired ethernet ports on the back (beyond the single one needed to connect to the cable modem, which your AE does have). Strictly speaking, you could buy a router without wireless and just plug in your Airport Express to that - using it solely as a wireless access point - but since the things are so cheap these days, you might as well buy a combined router / wireless access point.

Apple makes one - the Airport Extreme - but your parent’s house doesn’t need a $180 piece of network hardware. Just pick up something cheap at Best Buy.

I hadn’t thought about having to disconnect the PC. Since I’m wireless here, and even my computer-illiterate coworker has wireless on her PC, it just didn’t occur to me.

I just assumed PC to mean some kind of PC desktop. If it’s a PC laptop, then it most likely has wireless, and you’re all set. But there are lot of companies making PC desktops without wireless.

You could also buy a USB wireless adapter for their desktop, which wouldn’t be hard to set up. Depending on what they have in stock at whatever store you go to, a bare-bones router/WAP might be cheaper, though.

Thanks for the answers. Yes, it is a desktop PC. I’ve been there with my laptop before, and never picked up a wireless network, so I don’t think that they have one.

It sounds like I should just go and get a router/Wireless access point (or possibly a USB wireless adapter). Does Radio Shack sell these? My experience has been that the clerks are much more savvy than the ones at Best Buy.

Thanks again for explaining all this.