At MacWorld 2007 this past January, Apple released their new 802.11n Airport Extreme Base Station with support for sharing a USB hard drive. Since that release, we’ve seen a few reports here and there that Mac Office 2004 applications are unable to save files to such a shared disk. One of my colleagues had run into the problem at home and reported the bug internally here as well, and it ended up on my plate.
I obtained a new AEBS from our lab and set it up in my office. I rebooted my Intel iMac into Tiger, applied all the recent security updates (that Mac has been running Leopard seeds for a while, so the Tiger partition was a little out of date) and installed the new AEBS software. I then booted up Office 2008 (since that’s easier to debug right now) and tried to reproduce the problem. No luck — Excel and Word both had no problems saving to the wirelessly-mounted disk drive. So, I tried Office 2004. Again, it just worked! So, I sent the bug back to my colleague saying I couldn’t reproduce the problem.
Today, he brought his own AEBS in from home and we tested it. Sure enough, we could reproduce the problem on his AEBS. So, we pondered the problem for a little while and realized that when I set up our lab’s AEBS the other day, the first thing I did was update the AEBS firmware as prompted when I first ran the Airport Utility tool. Comparing the two AEBSs showed that the one I set up was using firmware v7.1, whereas my colleague’s was using v7.0. A quick update of his AEBS and a new test, and the problem went away!
I then dug around on Apple’s web site and found the release notes for the new firmware update. Lo and behold, the new firmware says that it has “improved support for third party applications saving files to a USB disk.”
So, if you are having problems saving files from Office 2004 applications to your new whiz-bangy Aiport Express Base Station, go to your Airport Utility and check to see if you have the latest AEBS firmware. Your Office installation will thank you (or at least, save your files…)!