MacMost Now 640: Creating a Guest Wi-Fi Network

If you have an Airport Extreme or a Time Capsule you can create a separate guest network. This appears as a different wi-fi network than your main one. Users of the guest network cannot see the computers or other devices on the main network. Setting one up in advance is a good idea so you can grant visitors access to your Internet connection without worry.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let me show you how to set up a guest Wi-Fi network using your Airport Extreme or Time Capsule. So have you ever run into this problem? A guest or perhaps a neighbor wants to use your Wi-Fi connection, but you're kind of uncomfortable letting them know your password and then onto your network that includes all of your different computers and different devices. Well there's an alternative if you use the Airport Extreme and Time Capsule you can set up a guest network. So this is the same device but it's a separate Wi-Fi network, and it's different than the one that you might be sharing all of your data and files, and everything internally. It almost appears as if you have a separate device. You can let people on this network and they won't know anything about the rest of your computers, or be able to access them, but they'll still be able to get to the internet.
Now you wanna use Airport Utility, which is in the applications utilities folder. The same application you used to set up your Extreme or Time Capsule originally. And you want to go in and this time you want to go to manual setup. And this will take you to a whole variety of options. You got a bunch of things at the top and you want to choose the first one which is Airport. Then you've got some options here. Now you want to choose guest network. Now under guest network, you can enable it and assign it a name. And this will be a separate Wi-Fi network. Looks like you have two Wi-Fi routers in your house. You can choose whether or not guest clients can communicate with each other. So for instance, if you're going to have two people come into your home and play games with their Macbooks you may want to turn this on, or share files between them.
You want to turn on security even though this is not your main network and they don't have access to everything else. You still want to make sure that they've got a secure connection their computer and the server so you use WPA-2 personal and give it a password.
So now you've got a separate network and you can give the password out to that one a little more freely than your main network. Now it's very important you set this up in advance. Because what will happen is somebody comes over, maybe they've got their iPhone and they say hey can I jump on your Wi-Fi network? Now it's a little too late to run off to your office and set this all up. It's just great to have this set up in advance, be able to say sure, here's the network name and here's the password. So, try to set that up in advance. Hope you found this useful. Till next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 39 Responses to “MacMost Now 640: Creating a Guest Wi-Fi Network”

    12/5/11 @ 8:18 am

    Hi Gary, love your podcasts. I usually find them very useful. However this one is a little short on info. I do not get the guest network tab. Does this have to do with the way I have it set up? I.o.w do different options display for different setups? My extreme is set up after another router installed by the glass fiber company that provides my internet. I have that one set up as a bridge (it just ports the signal to my extreme). Any suggestions as to why I am not seeing the guest network feature. Regards, Hans

      12/5/11 @ 8:22 am

      If you are using your Extreme as a Bridge, then you don’t have this option. A bridge means that the Extreme isn’t creating your own network at all, really. You are probably missing a lot of other features too.

        Gene Melchionne
        12/5/11 @ 4:16 pm

        I beg to differ. I’m administer four different Airports in varying configurations (office, home, brother, friend). NOne of them are set up as a bridge and the software on my MBP does not have the “Guest Network” tab for any of them. This option disappeared within the last few Airport Utility updates. Are you sure you’re running the latest version?

        Thanks for the great job. Although I’ve been using Macs since ’85, I always watch and learn something new. Gene

          12/5/11 @ 4:42 pm

          Absolutely, the latest version. Not sure why it isn’t showing up for you.

    Doug Brace
    12/5/11 @ 12:36 pm

    Is this REALLY necessary if you have passwords for all of your user accounts on your Mac or your Windows computers? I even have sharing (with various levels of access) turned on for my Mac and Windows computers.

    I had some friends come over, with Macs and PCs. When they came over, I tried accessing the shares on my computers and every way I tested, I was asked for a user name and password. To me, that is secure enough.

    Am I missing something as far as an advantage to using a “guest” network?

    Part of the reason why I don’t have a “guest” network is because I also have a network enabled printer that is on my “trusted” network. In order for them to use the printer they need to be on the “trusted” network.

      12/5/11 @ 3:02 pm

      If you have it set up all perfectly, then sure, you can probably let them use your main network. But some people don’t even like to share their main network’s password and like having a guest network with a simple password that they can change.

    12/5/11 @ 1:41 pm

    Hi Gary, I have a MBP with OS X Lion and an Airport Extreme Base Station. So I know how to set up the Guest network, but what I am wondering is if I set up a Standard/Limited user account in my MBP. Would it be possible to have that Standard user account automatically switch to using the Guest network verses my Primary network instead of my having to switch it manually?

      12/5/11 @ 2:59 pm

      Not sure. Play around with it. Try setting up two “locations” in your Network prefs and set the Guest user to the Guest wifi.
      I think the problem may be that the connection is shared between all accounts — and multiple accounts may be using it even if it is not the active account on your screen.

      2/7/13 @ 6:57 pm

      Hi Biffo i just hot an airport express … did you find the way to limit the guests account by some MBP ? i dont want to give full access to my guests


    Brian Mason
    12/5/11 @ 9:30 pm

    I believe this is a feature of the new AirPort extremes. I have a earlier AirPort Extreme and it does not reveal this choice. My choices are as follows in the manual settings. Summary, base station, wireless, and access control.

    You may want to research this one further. To reiterate, I believe this is a hardware feature of the newer AirPort Extremes and time capsules.

    I could be wrong. :-)

      12/5/11 @ 9:31 pm

      Are you up-to-date on the Airport Extreme firmware? That’s one possibly.

    John Priest
    12/5/11 @ 11:23 pm

    So I replaced my 2nd Gen. Airport Extreme with a brand spanking new 5th Gen. Airport Extreme! Now… what should I do with my OLD Airport Extreme???? What would YOU do with it? I do have a rather large house and my signal gets a few bars weak all the way up stairs in the master bedroom crapper. Would it be WORTH IT to somehow extend my network (if there is a good way to do that) or should I just donate it to a friend? I do have a 50mbps Comcast Cable connection, and my OLD AE could only reach to 30mbps (although we had the faster 50mbps connection) so what would YOU do if you had an older Airport Extreme (still looks like the new ones, flat rounded corners box style, not the UFO version) suggestions all knowledgeable Gary!!!!?

      12/6/11 @ 7:47 am

      Yes, using it to expand your network is a good idea. That’s what I do.

        John Priest
        12/6/11 @ 11:07 pm

        So what is the “quick and dirty” way to set up my 2nd AE to EXTEND my network? Should I put this 2nd AE in the middle of my house upstairs or should I favor one side or the other? Suggestions and a quick tutorial on EXTENDING your network would be really kool Gary!!! Maybe you should do a quick video on how to properly EXTEND an existing network.
        -Thanks G!

          12/6/11 @ 11:09 pm

          It is too simple for a video. Just switch that AE to “extend” in the Airport Utility controls. Then put it halfway between your main AE and the opposite end of your house.

    12/6/11 @ 12:12 am

    I am also missing the Guest Network tab and am not using bridge mode. Do you think by using the extended mode feature between two airport extremes this may cause the tab not to show? I am also running the “Master” Aiport Extreme router behind a Verizon Fios router that has a “built in” wireless bridge. Is this another possibility for the tab not showing up? Thanks in advance!

      12/6/11 @ 7:46 am

      If your device is extending a network, then it is not creating its own network. So you can’t create a second network either. You would set up the guest network on the device that is the “master” — that is the way I have it, in fact. So it should work on the one NOT extending a network. Not sure about those Verizon router issue. If there is a bridge between that and your master Airport device, then wouldn’t that mean you ARE in bridge mode? Hard to advise without see in it.

    Jeff Tucker
    12/6/11 @ 5:17 am

    Thanks Gary for your great information and tutorials. I was able to successfully set up my GUEST Network, it was exactly as you described in this video as I use the 2 GB Time Capsule to back up my IMac and my Macbook Pro 15.. I really needed this video as I have a rental property on my land, and I needed a way to share my WI-Fi to my rental apartment and this video allowed me to create a simple password for the GUEST Network that I created. Many thanks for all that you do… Have a Happy Merry Christmas.. Jeff

    Brian Mason
    12/6/11 @ 12:21 pm

    This feature is not availible in the second gen airport extremes. I notice gary’s airport is fourth gen.

    The firmware on my second gen is 7.6

      12/10/11 @ 10:23 am

      Same here. No “Guest Network” tab available in the settings as Gary shows.

    12/8/11 @ 12:35 pm

    1. Do you have to have airport extreme or time capsule to do this? can you use any router?
    2. do you need to change the guess password each time?
    3. how to lock the wifi? do i do it from the hardware (router) or from the software (imac)?
    4. how to “NOT” to broadcast the that neighbors would not see the wifi signal?
    thank you. berry

      12/8/11 @ 12:44 pm

      You can use any wi-fi router that has a guest network function available. I’m sure some others do. So check the documentation of the one you have.
      You set the guest password and change it when you want to.
      Lock the wi-fi? Not sure what you mean by that.
      On an Airport Extreme you would go to Airport Utility, AirPort, Wireless, Advanced Settings, and then check “Create a closed network.” But on other routers you would need to check the documentation for that.

    12/27/11 @ 12:57 am

    I have the latest Time Machine, fully updated firmware and Airport 7.6 but still did not have the same tabs in the video.
    By going to: “Base Station” in the top menu (was not in the tabs) and selecting “Restore Default Settings” the same tab menu finally came up.
    The problem might have been caused by a setting that I selected when setting up originally…I really don’t know. I had to reconfigure but it was well worth it and not much effort.

    12/31/11 @ 6:43 pm

    Missing Guest Network Tab – 3rd gen Extreme, latest software and firmware

    When I first installed the Airport Extreme I had the Guest Network Tab. Then somewhere along the way I lost it and the Guest Network, possibly due to updates?. I checked my notes and had created a Guest Network and had assigned a password.

    I now have an internet connection via a WiMAX CPE (wireless through DirectTV in Argentina). Maybe I lost it here since it’s not a DSL/Cable modem?

      12/31/11 @ 8:48 pm

      Perhaps you are using it as a bridge, instead of using the built-in DHCP then.

        1/3/12 @ 4:54 am

        I’m not using it as a bridge. I’m using it to create a network and it’s the same way I have used it for 2 years since I initially set it up and then it had a guest network. The summary page now shows: Wireless: Create a network. I don’t have the tab for a guest network. Odd?

          1/3/12 @ 9:04 am

          Must be some other setting that is incompatible with using the guest network feature. Not sure what that could be.

    1/21/12 @ 2:44 pm

    Bummer…. just checked Apple’s support page ( and Guest Network only works on 2nd and 3rd Gen Time Capsules – and I’ve got a 1st Gen.

    Thanks for the info anyway Gary!

    1/22/12 @ 2:55 pm

    Thank you for many instructional videos and tips you have placed on your web site. They are extremely helpful.

    I am trying to established a guest network on my home wifi network. I do not have the “Guest Network” tab on my version of the Airport Utility. I am using the Airport Express. The only option is “Wireless.”

    What else can I do to create a Guest Network? Thanks.

      1/22/12 @ 7:29 pm

      Perhaps your model of Airport Extreme is too old and doesn’t support it. Or, perhaps you are using it in Bridge Mode, which means you aren’t creating networks at all.

        6/28/12 @ 1:00 pm

        Gary, thanks for the video. I just got the latest Time Capsule and was excited to set this up to include a guest network. It seems that the default setup is in Bridge Mode, but when I try to change the network setting to DHCP and NAT, I am no longer connected to my Internet here at all. I’m obviously missing a step or maybe doing it wrong. Any ideas?

          6/28/12 @ 1:32 pm

          Hard to say. Very hard to advise on something like that from afar. Try again, experiment, maybe call your ISP and see if they will help, get an expert over, etc.

            6/28/12 @ 1:55 pm

            Strangely, all I’ve read about “Bridge Mode” indicates that wireless Internet will not be made available when the TC is in this mode, but I have wireless Internet (and no other router is present at this location). Sadly, there are no experts available (Comcast Business—go figure). They tell me to contact the company that provided my router.

              6/29/12 @ 12:21 am

              I believe bridge mode means that TC will just let your ISP’s router handle the network — it just acts as a way for your devices to reach it. So TC won’t set up its own network at all. I’d try setting up DHCP again. Play around with it for a while. Experiment. Maybe get a friend over who knows more to help.

                6/29/12 @ 7:35 am

                That’s the thing. The ISP only supplied a modem—no router!

                TC is my only router here.

                Comcast Business supplied me with a Docsis modem only.

                I’ll definitely try getting someone to help with it. I just like to find out for myself wherever possible. It has to be something simple, right?! :-)

    Montana Burr
    3/19/12 @ 9:35 am

    We have a few-month-old AirPort Express. We currently have a guest who may use the printer, so I want to share the printer over the guest network so that he doesn’t need to log in to our private network. How do I do this?

      3/19/12 @ 9:42 am

      Not sure if there is a way. Play around with the Airport Utility and check to see. Also, try it. It may just work automatically without any specific settings.

    5/22/12 @ 10:58 am

    Gary, I have 2 AE’s. Can I use one as the main airport and broadcast a guest network, just like your video shows, BUT also be extended?

    Would the 2nd airport extend both of those networks?

      5/22/12 @ 4:52 pm

      No it doesn’t work like that. Either they are both used together to create the two networks (normal and guest), or you have each be its own network, separate from each other.

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