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I have a home network with the following components and network capabilities.

  • AirPort Express (A1264): 802.11a/b/g/Draft N = ?
  • Mac Mini 2011: 802.11n = 54-600 Mbit/s
  • MacBook Air 2014: 802.11ac = < 1 Gbit/s

When copying files between the Mini and the Air (using rsync over ssh) I get maximum transfer speeds of about 1 MByte/s, which is a major disappointment.

Actually, I get better download speeds from the Internet (2.5 MByte/s, limited by my type of broadband subscription) than between the two Macs.

I assume the Express is the major bottleneck, however my questions around this are as follows:

  1. What could possibly explain the ridiculously slow transfer speed of 1 MByte/s?
  2. Can the speed be improved by software adjustments? (I have the latest firmware)
  3. What is the maximum speed of the Express, given the "Draft N" specification?
  4. If I buy the newest Express with 802.11ac, what kind of speed can I expect?
  5. If I also buy the newest Mini with 802.11ac, what kind of speed can I expect?
  6. Is there anything else non-evident that would get in the way of optimal speeds?
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If working to transfer between two Apple machines, you should know that other connections can be used: you can simply use a Ethernet LAN cable, and plug directly into the network port on both machines (using dongle if necessary). You do not need to use a 'patch' cable, as the network ports will self-configure properly. You can also use USB-C, Firewire or Thunderbolt as network connections. All of these options are far faster than using pretty much any WiFi.

For using other cables, its best to use Apple's Migration Assistant. You can also use Target Disk Mode, which allows you to simply mount the other Mac hard drive on your new Mac.

  • Can you transfer files between two Macs using a USB cable with a Type A connector in both ends?? What happens when you do this? (How does it show up in Finder?) Or what methods of transferring makes itself available to you this way? – forthrin May 7 '18 at 18:18
  • updated answer to respond to this comment – cmason May 7 '18 at 19:57
  • "Target disk mode doesn't support connections that use ... USB-A to USB-A cable". – forthrin May 8 '18 at 4:51
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1) What could possibly explain the ridiculously slow transfer speed of 1 MByte/s?

  • What kind of files are you transferring? Many small files will be much slower due to seek times. Try copying something like a big movie. also, how's your signal strength? If you option+click on the wifi icon, it will tell you your connection speed, type, and signal strength.

2) Can the speed be improved by software adjustments? (I have the latest firmware)

  • Hard to say - probably not unless you're running some version of the OS with a known wifi bug in it (Yosemite had some)

3) What is the maximum speed of the Express, given the "Draft N" specification?

  • Max theoretical is 150 I believe. Sounds like you have an old express with only the 2.4 ghz band.

4) If I buy the newest Express with 802.11ac, what kind of speed can I expect?

  • It's almost impossible to answer that question, other than to say "better". Other than the hardware, there's all kinds of considerations including things like what kind of land line phone do you have, how many neighbors also use wifi, and what are your walls made of.

5)If I also buy the newest Mini with 802.11ac, what kind of speed can I expect?

  • Same as above, but I suspect that it will be even better than the case in #4. You'll be going to the 5 GHz channel (and i'm assuming doing pure AC, not mixed AC/N mode.) This has greater throughput and less interference (at the cost of worse wall/distance penetration). And of course the AC mac mini can send at a faster rate.

6)Is there anything else non-evident that would get in the way of optimal speeds?

  • A lot of the stuff I mentioned in #4 apply. Interference is a big one. Check in your airport config that B/G mode is disabled, only run N.
  • Brilliant answer! Switched to "802.11n only (5GHz)" and got 4 MB/s speed (better, but still slow)! I run OS X 10.11. WiFi stats for MacBook Air: Channel: 44 (5 GHz, 40 MHz) RSSI: -65 dBm. Noise: -96 dBm. Tx Rate: 162 Mbps. PHY Mode: 802.11n. MCS Index: 12. The Mini: RSSI: -69 dBM. Noise: -86 dBm. (The rest of the stats are identical.) Both machines are about 5 meters from the Express, with some walls between but not concrete or anything. With the Air right next to the Express (not an option for regular use): RSSI: -33. Noise: -96. Anything else to try except buying new equipment? – forthrin Nov 19 '15 at 10:55
  • If you can force the wireless channel and go up to like 151 you'll maybe get better bandwidth (at the cost of range) but otherwise I think you're approaching the peak of what that airport can do for you. One other thing you can try is to install istumblr and do a site survey to make sure there's no interference even on your 5ghz band, since dual-band devices are becoming more and more common. The good news about 5ghz is the channels don't overlap like they do on 2.4 so you have many more choices. – Vitalydotn Nov 19 '15 at 13:31
  • So I just did some non-scientific testing using iperf on my wifi network which is on a Netgear R7000 running DD-WRT. I used and iPhone 6S Plus and an iPad Air2 in a few scenarios. Here are some numbers: On 2.4<->2.4 802.11n network I got an average of ~3MB/s over the course of 60 seconds || On 2.4 802.11n<->5 802.11ac network I averaged ~5.25MB/s || On 5<->5 802.11ac network I averaged ~21.1MB/s || I didn't test your exact scenario of 5<->5 802.11n because reconfiguring my network would be annoying, but I hope the numbers give you some idea of what the options are. – Vitalydotn Nov 20 '15 at 18:53
  • How do I force the wireless channel up? Also, it seems that theoretical wireless speeds are the biggest hoax ever: pcadvisor.co.uk/opinion/network-wifi/… – forthrin Nov 22 '15 at 8:58

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