Enterprise Wireless

Remotely converting Cisco Access Points (Autonomous or Lightweight)

Although I’ve covered converting Access Points via local methods sometimes you won’t have the luxury of being onsite or have someone to hold down a mode button for you. In these instances you may need to remotely convert over the WAN which can be risky business.


Autonomous to Lightweight

1) Change the BVI Interface to DHCP

This is very important or the Access Point will retain the static IP address and won’t try to find a controller to join, leaving you unable to remotely access it (the default login credentials don’t work) and basically unable to do anything until the AP is hard reset via the mode button.

Before proceeding you will need a DHCP server available to hand out some IPs. I won’t go into detail on setting one of those up in this post.

conf t
interface BVI1
ip address dhcp


Setting Autonomous AP to DHCP
Setting Autonomous AP to DHCP


Wait about 20 seconds and you should be able to reconnect to the AP on the new IP address.

2) Confirm current image and prepare for download via FTP

Performing a ‘show boot’ isn’t necessary but you can see in the image below it is running a a ‘k9w7’ image which makes it Autonomous.

sh boot - Confirm AP Image
sh boot – Confirm AP Image


A recovery image (k9w8) is all that’s required to provide the AP with enough functionality to join a controller. Some versions of code require a minimum level of recovery image, particularly virtual WLCs so check this prior to converting. I prefer to leave the old IOS on there as there’s space for more than one image and it’s a backup in case my recovery fails. I also like to use FTP for the transfer as it is fast and reliable; important attributes when converting over a WAN.

To setup the AP with relevant FTP credentials:

conf t
ip ftp username <username>
ip ftp password <password>

3) Initiate download

achive download-sw /leave ftp://IP ADDRESS/c1140-rcvk9w8-tar.153-3.JA1.tar

Configuring FTP download
Configuring FTP download



4) Confirm replacement image and reload

Once the image is unpacked you can do another show boot to confirm it will boot off the new image then reload the AP which will cause you to lose connectivity.

Image unpack and boot check
Image unpack and boot check


Assuming your options / DHCP / DNS are configured correctly the AP will join your WLC following the reboot. If not, you should still be able connect to it with Cisco Cisco and see why it is or isn’t joining.

Lightweight to Autonomous

Lightweight to Autonomous is just as easy as above, if not easier

1) Log into the AP and confirm the current image

LW AP - Check image version
LW AP – Check image version


2) Enter global configuration mode

Lightweight APs have global configuration mode disabled by default. To bypass this, use the hidden command “debug capwap console cli”. You won’t be able to tab this out so type it all in manually. This will allow you to setup the FTP transfer details and perform other normally restricted functions.

LW AP - Hidden command to enter global config mode
LW AP – Hidden command to enter global config mode

3) Setup FTP download credentials

Setup your ftp server details the same as in the Auto to LW conversion or skip to step 4 if you are going to use another transfer type such as http or tftp

conf t
ip ftp username <username>
ip ftp password <password>

LW AP - FTP Credentials
LW AP – FTP Credentials

4) Download Autonomous IOS

Initiate the download. I’m leaving the LW IOS in place again in this example as a backup.

archive downlaod-sw /leave ftp://<ip address>/<image name>


LW AP - Download new IOS
LW AP – Download new IOS


5) Image verification and reload

Once the image has downloaded confirm through sh flash or if you want to be thorough perform an md5 hash check

verify /md5 flash:/<directory>/<image name>

MD5 Image verification
MD5 Image verification


If you’re feeling super vigilant perform a ‘sh boot’  to confirm it will booting on to the new image and reload.

sh boot


Sh boot verification
Sh boot verification

6) After rebooting the AP will retain the static IP if it had one and is accessible through the default login credentials of Cisco Cisco


Auto AP - Default login
Auto AP – Default login

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