Apple AirPort Express resurrection
November 18, 2009 14 Comments
There’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.
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! :-)