Even on an 802.11g network you can achieve some pretty fast transfers between your Macs & PC’s, provided one detail: one of the computers you’ll be transferring to or from is hard-wired via Ethernet.

Every wireless network has a threshold of bandwidth available on it which is somewhat in flux, due to the distances the connections are made at; the variety of devices on a network and their respective transfer speeds; and the amount of traffic on the network at the time you make a transfer.

Making a transfer of a 1.18GB video file from my Core2Duo Macbook wirelessly to an Ethernet wired Core2Duo iMac through my 802.11n Airport Extreme, I achieve wireless speeds of around 11.3Mb/sec. In terms of time, that 1.18GB video file took less than a minute to complete.

Making the same transfer with both computers wirelessly connected to the Airport Extreme, the transfer speeds were more than sliced in half. Why?

It may seem obvious to some, but the reason why the speeds are sliced in half for the two computers on the same 802.11n network with no other congestion, connected less than 20 feet from the base station- is simple: There’s a two-way connection happening on both computers, splitting the wireless bandwidth in half, and then some.

The router communicates with the iMac and vice versa, and to and from the MacBook simultaneously.

In order to significantly speed things up, I’ve hard-wired the iMac with Ethernet, and achieve the higher speeds for file transfers both coming from the iMac to other computers, and to the iMac from my wireless Macs.

Forget AirDisk
The above method also beats Apple’s AirDisk solution as well. Wireless transfers to an AirDisk give, at best, around 380Mb/sec transfer speeds for me. The bottleneck is USB itself, with a limitation of around 400 Mb, which is, in real-world transfers, often slower. Connecting an external hard drive to your Ethernet wired Mac and mounting it in the Finder will yield faster network transfers using backup utilities or applications over the network.

Music and movies both play flawlessly using the one-way method. Having an external, wireless iTunes library is very feasible on an 802.11n one-way wireless network, such as I have setup.

And if you’re looking for an extremely simple and configurable solution for quickly sending files between Macs, use the donation-ware networking tool form 10base-T interactive, DropCopy.

DropCopy places a small, translucent circle on your desktop which, when dragging a file to it, will reveal the other computers via Bonjour on your network, allowing you to send files directly without having to first mount their drives on your computer.

The only caveat is that you must have DropCopy installed on all the Macs you want to send files to or from on your network. The website offers step-by-step instructions to setup everything easily and quickly.

If you’re looking to beef-up the speed of your wireless network, consider this one-way solution. Whether it’s large files, wireless backup, or just less congestion overall on your wireless network, hard-wiring a Mac that is going to bear the brunt of heavy traffic is the way to go.

There is 1 comment on Quick Tip: The Fastest Airport Transfers Are One Way:

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  1. Matt | Jul 16 2007 - 11:49

    Does this work the same way with TV? I have a 400GB external hard drive connected to my Airport Extreme base station. My iTunes library is on this drive. Most of the TV shows and movies that I stream through my Mac, which pulls the video off of the hard drive on the Airport Base station, play without pausing to buffer. However, about 20% of the time, they do stop to buffer (I’m using a Macbook Core Duo with a 3rd party 802.11n card). Will connecting my TV to my Airport Extreme Base Station through the Ethernet make my streaming viewing on TV buffer-free?