Blinking Yellow Light on an Apple Airport– what it means, what to do



A blinking yellow (Apple calls it “amber”) light is the Apple Airport’s way of getting your attention. It does not necessarily mean the Airport has a problem. Most of the time, it means there’s a firmware update for the Airport. Here’s how you check, and here’s what you do about it.

An Airport with a blinking yellow light may be working absolutely perfectly. Just because Apple has a firmware update for the Airport doesn’t mean there’s something wrong or that your internet service is going to stop working if you don’t apply it right away. Remember, previous to the update being provided, your Airport was working fine. But, since Airport updates almost always provide enhanced security or performance or both, if an update is available, it’s a good idea to apply it.

How to use the Airport Utility on a Mac to update Airport firmware

On your Mac, launch the Airport Utility. This is Apple software, installed at the factory, so it ought to be on your Mac. You can search for it (Spotlight menu), or find it in the Utilities folder (inside the Applications folder). (Easy shortcut: click somewhere on the Desktop, which takes you to the Finder, then Command-Shift-U for Utilities. You’ll find the Airport utility in there.)

Use the Airport Utility to investigate the blinking yellow light.
Airport Utility, on the Mac

You can, alternatively, use the Airport Utility app on your iPhone or iPad. See below.

When you open the Airport Utility you’ll see the Airports that are part of your network. It could look something like this:

Airport Utility screenshot showing blinking yellow light (Apple calls it Amber) on Time Capsule
Airport Utility

In that picture we see three devices– the devices on the network that our Mac is connected to. The one on the top, the Time Capsule (essentially an Airport with a hard drive inside, for backing up with Time Machine), is blinking yellow. You can see, to the left of the unit’s name, an orange (amber) dot. We will focus on that unit, for now. The steps are exactly the same for any modern Apple Airport, whether an Airport Express, AirPort Extreme, or Time Capsule.

A nice feature of the Airport Utility is its display is very dynamic. If your Airport (or Time Capsule) is blinking yellow, Airport Utility shows you a blinking yellow light also. This is really handy if you have multiple Airports because it means you don’t have to see each unit in person to know whether their lights are blinking or not.

You also see a red circle with the number 2 in it to the right of the Time Capsule’s name. This tells us there are two issues. If we click on it, we see this:

Airport Utility showing details about a Time Capsule. Yellow light shows this device may be over-heating.
After clicking on the picture of the Time Capsule

If instead of this picture you see a message asking you for a password, this can get tricky. Airports have passwords for protection. This COULD be the same password as the one you use when joining your network, but sometimes it’s not. Try the one you use when joining your network. If that doesn’t work, maybe you used a different Mac when setting up the Airport. Typically, the password for the Airport is saved on the Mac that sets it up. So that might be the ticket for you.

The red arrow points to an “Update” button. There’s a software update for the Airport, so we want to click that button. When we do, we get this:

Airport Utility warning that the network will temporarily be unavailable during the update.
Airport Utility warning about network interruption

So now we click Continue, the firmware updated downloads, and then it’s automatically applied to your Airport (or Time Capsule). This involves a restart of the device, also done automatically. It will take few minutes to download and install, and then a few minutes to restart the device. Plan on your network being down for about 5 minutes, all together. Obviously it is good to let other people know you’re doing an Airport firmware update before they get kicked off the network. Tell them it’s for their own good– it’s for the security of the network.

Generally speaking, that’s all there is to it. Quit the Airport Utility. You’re done. Sometimes, however, you’ll get a message like this:

Airport Utility error message while updating firmware.
An error occurred.

In my experience, the error almost never occurs a second time, so try updating again.

Let’s see some other examples (next page).



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