Apple AirPort Express resurrection

airport-express-smallThere’s a moment in the life of many AirPort Express devices when the nice green LED decides to remain off. We first do not believe it is dead, check cables, check everything we can, and finally go to Google to discover out beloved device succombed to a known thermal design problem. Oh well…


Many solutions were devised to repair the device, and in general the idea is to replace the dead power supply.

Apple Airport Express repair

Here is one solution that does not completely destroy the nice white case. Instead, it allows access to the connector on the power supply PCB:

Technically I used a Forstnet bit to carefully drill a 15mm hole in the case. Then, with a hot air soldering station I removed the connector from the PCB.

The next step was to build an external power supply to provide the +3.3V and +5V needed by the AirPort Express. Since I did not know the exact power consumption of the device, and in order to simplify things, I decided to use an external +5V, 2.5A switched power supply, and to generate the +3.3V from it, with a simple hybrid module from Rohm (BP5233A33), and the required capacitors (1000µF/16V on input and 470µF/16V on output).

On one side of this new board I soldered the original AirPort Express power connector, and on the other side I soldered a female connector to match the one on the +5V power supply.

To my surprise, when I powered the device, the LED came on and shortly turned green, indicating the device successfully connected to the Wi-Fi access point; audio output was shortly available.

Mission accomplished: my AirPort Express is back to life! :-)

About Liviu Ionescu (ilg)
Hi! My name is Liviu Ionescu (ilg, ilegeul or eunete for colleagues and friends) and I’m a senior IT engineer. Or should I say a real programmer?

14 Responses to Apple AirPort Express resurrection

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great explanation Liviu! I like the neat way you approached and solved this common problem keeping as much as possible the nice appearance (as opposed to the "hawsack method". I also very much appreciate you share this with everybody. There are several routes to fix a "dead" AirPort Express and this one is one of the "cleanest" and less invasive ones. People have similarly used an external PSU (eg. an iPod or for that matter any USB charger) to get the 5V and from there drop to 3.3V with some IC + capacitors (and eventually a fuse) as you did. Others have taken those two voltages from a card reader connected and glued to the AE. Publishing as many working solutions as possible will encourage people to try, and in doing so continue recycling perfectly usable hardware. I am in the process of fixing one of these beasts right now: I used the Dremel to make the hole and now have the female side of the power connector disconnected from the PSU board of the AirPort Express (AE). Do you mind to publish more pictures of the board alone? maybe from different views of the circuit, disconnected from the cables of the AE? I am specifically curious about how you managed to get the male side of the power connector from the original board on the power supply (PSU)? Did you desolder/cut the male side from the original high voltage PSU board inside the AE? I see from the picture that you left all the cables intact. Neat! I liked that!

  2. ilg-ul says:

    There are no secrets on the back of the circuit, the schematic is very simple, exactly as described in the module specs, one capacitor on the input and one capacitor on the output side.As mentioned in the post, the male side of the connector was not cut, but easily desoldered using a hot air soldering station.Critical for the repair is the place where to drill the hole. My goal was to do it exactly on the edge of the PCB, and for this I measured as precisely as I could the various views of available pictures.Liviu

  3. Pingback: 2010 in review « ilg The Geek's blog

  4. claudiu says:

    hy can you help me with the schematic ???
    raffter08@gmail.com

    • I quote from the post “a simple hybrid module from Rohm (BP5233A33), and the required capacitors (1000µF/16V on input and 470µF/16V on output)”.

      The schematic is simple, the module has one input, ground and one output; connect the 1000µF capacitor on the input and the 470µF capacitor on the output, and this is all.

      The exact module type is not important, anything that can turn 5.0V into 3.3V at this power level (a few watts) might work as well.

      Liviu

  5. claudiu says:

    thanks liviu :) is roman si eu

  6. Kyle Hammond says:

    Could you make me one?
    one of my capacitors is burned.
    let me know…thanks in advance

    • Hmmm… I’m afraid this would be quite difficult and shipping it quite expensive. :-(

      • Kyle Hammond says:

        Oh, i thought you made this one here in the blog. as for shipping it couldn’t be more that buying a new Airport Express…tell me what you think.

  7. Alvaro says:

    Hello Liviu,
    I agree with Kyle. I think that it couldn’t be more expensive than a new Airport Express.
    If you are not able to make it, would be possible that you give me the schematic, please? My knowledge of electronics are very limited.
    Thanks.

  8. > would be possible that you give me the schematic, please?

    please see the second paragraph of my Aug 18th comment, and some of the previous text.

    for such a simple device I do not have a formal schematic, I built it using the converter data sheet.

    • Alvaro says:

      Ok.
      Where can I find an BP5233A33, please?
      Thanks

      • I got mine from:

        http://www.comet.srl.ro/

  9. Kyle Hammond says:

    Would anyone here be able to make one for me? It would be awesome if you could.

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