Airport Utility: Setting Wireless Time Limits

| TMO Quick Tip

If you’re using a network device from Apple (like a Time Capsule or an Airport Extreme), Airport Utility’s Timed Access Control setting is a pretty easy way to configure when the machines on your network are allowed to wirelessly connect to the Internet. For each computer, you can use its unique Wi-Fi MAC (Media Access Control) address to block it from the network pretty much whenever you feel like it, which is a big thing for conscientious parents who want to cut off Internet usage at certain times of day. So let’s go over it, shall we? Note that these instructions assume you’re using Airport Utility version 6.0 under Lion, so if you have a previous iteration of the software, your steps are going to be a little different. The basic idea is the same, but feel free to ask questions in the comments if you’ve got them.

So first, find the MAC address of the machine you want to set up time limits for. An easy way to get this is by going to System Preferences > Network on the computer in question, choosing Wi-Fi from the list on the left, and clicking on the Advanced button. The computer’s MAC address will be under the Wi-Fi tab, labeled as Wi-Fi Address.

If it’s an iOS device you’re looking to block, the number you’ll want for that is the Wi-Fi address listed under Settings > General > About.

Of course it doesn’t make a ton of sense if the device you want to block is your kid’s iPhone. That’s a pretty good way to get a gigantic data bill, if you ask me.

Anyway, after you’ve found that number, open Airport Utility (it’s within Applications > Utilities), choose the wireless device you want to configure, and click on the Edit button.

Then select the Network tab, toggle on Enable Access Control, and click the button labeled “Timed Access Control” to configure the settings.

On the next screen, you’ll click the plus button to add a new wireless client setup. Give it an appropriate description and type in the MAC address we found earlier.

Now’s the fun part—set the Wireless Access Times for when the computer with the MAC address you’ve entered will be allowed to use the wireless network. You can click the plus button underneath that section to keep adding new rules, so you could have a separate schedule for the weekend, for example.

When you’re finished, hit the Save button, and then make sure to click on Update to finish configuring the device. That’s all there is to it, and in my tests, this works pretty darned well. One thing I have noticed, though, is that the cutoff times aren’t always exact—they may fluctuate a bit after the time you’ve set. So if little Johnny gets two extra minutes of playing World of Warcraft, you have been forewarned, right?

Please be aware that if you have very smart kids (or adults, I guess) whom you’re trying to block from Internet access, spoofing a MAC address isn’t all that difficult. So if that’s the situation you’re working with, you might want to consider other options, such as using Parental Controls to lock down the little buttheads. That’ll show ‘em.

Comments

furbies

That?ll show ?em.

Until you realise the little “buttheads” know the admin password(s)!

The final solution? Disconnect and hide the ADSL modem!

wab95

Very timely article for my household.

I have been trying to decide between setting parental controls for time limits on both my kids’ computers to keep them on school-related tasks during the week, which means that I then need to do all the administration, or, since most of their distractions are internet - related (okay, “Facebook”), to simply limit their internet access time.

I have avoided this latter only because schools and universities increasingly place assignments online, however, well-chosen wireless access time limits might wonderfully concentrate the mind.

Melissa Holt

The final solution? Disconnect and hide the ADSL modem!

Or move to Amish country. I understand they don’t have many problems with excessive Internet usage there. wink

Melissa Holt

wab95,

I’m happy to have helped. Apologize to your kids for me.

?Melissa

joshua musher

The timed access I set resets to available all the time on a frequent basis (it seems every day), even though I “update” both in the Access Control tab and again from the summary tab. How do I keep this from happening?

Melissa Holt

Hey Joshua,

If I were you, I would reset the device completely and reconfigure it. I’ve often seen weird issues like this be resolved that way.

Hope that helps!
?Melissa

gina

on the same line. I was having problems with my kids ipods. I know I set up the timed access correctly (addresses and times, then hit update)
but 2 things have happened.
1) the ipods seem to always have access as if they are falling under the unlimited default. ( I tested this by changing the unlimited to a shorter time frame and the kids could not connect.  I then changed it back to unlimited and they could connect. (actually I tried to change the unlimited to say 9am and 9pm, but it kept defaulting to 9am and 5pm..Weird)
2) on an aside, I read somewhere that if the ipods established a connection before their times up, it will just continue being connected (since there was no official sign off and sign on)

I hope you can help thanks!

Melissa Holt

Hey Gina,

If that were my Airport, I’d completely reset it (by sticking a paper clip into the small reset indention) and reconfigure it. It’s a pain in the butt, yep, but it sometimes solves weirdness like that.

Are you running the most recent version of the firmware for the device?

Hope that helps!
Melissa

fred

thanks for the idea.
it’s an easy way to do it and ressembles the parental control that i’ve enabled but don’t necessary work well a ll he time.
If you want to change anything for any reason, let’s say that homework takes longer than anticipated and another kid lost its internet privileges that day, you have to change the settings and update every time and loose any other connection; for a short time yes but it is an annoyance when work file sharing or conferencing takes place (my wife yells at me often because of that).
Not very practical when you have 3 kids with friends and the bandwidth management has to be very flexible.

What I’m looking for is a network tool that is able to create, change and manage subnetworks of one main network (my time capsule or a new router if necessary ) on the fly, without shutting everybody out at each change.

Practically, I want to create a main network for my wife and I, one for each household wifi device and a guest access, all with a simple interface capable of switching each network on and off at will (like the wifi sharing in the pref. pane) and only affect that particular network.
Like you said, it’s easy to spoof a MAC ID and the control should/has to be on the parent’s computer without leaving the kids with the possibility of bypassing the restriction, until they figure it out….

any idea would be great.
thanks

Melissa Holt

Hey fred,

I don’t personally know any consumer-level products that do what you’re asking. All of the ones I know are meant for businesses and are pretty expensive. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any, though—maybe someone will chime in with ideas?

—Melissa

David Higley

Thanks for this.  Helpful but it’s rather pathetic (and I say this about Apple in general) on how they have very few parental controls on any of their devices.  There should be a utility to “simply” set controls on each device and doing this without having to manually find the WiFi address.  Something basic like allowing parents to set an additional password that kicks in after 8 pm (or whenever) that needs to be entered to get access online.

Super Ezekiel

I am trying to configure it, and when I enter say, 7 AM - 6 PM and then try to add another one, say 9 PM - 11 PM, it tells me something is incorrectly configured.

Super Ezekiel

David, you can do this on individual devices using the devices parental controls. This is remotely configurable too, last I checked.

Cole Adams

Is there a way to do timed access with a wired MAC address?  Or does this only work for wireless clients?

Jeanie Caggiano

So we have almost all Mac devices, but my son just got a Nexus 7.  I don’t know how to find the Mac address or even if it has a mac address.  It gets on the wifi just fine.  How do I add this (or any non-mac device) to the list of devices?  I’ve been locking it in the basement at night, but sometimes I forget.

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