How to make custom ringtones for your iPhone

Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty ImagesYou can edit and convert songs in your iTunes library for use as custom iPhone ringtones.

  • Apple doesn’t make it especially easy to convert tracks from your own iTunes music connection into ringtones, but you can do it for free using your computer and iTunes.
  • To make a custom ringtone for an iPhone, you’ll need to edit a song using iTunes on the computer. You can tweak the start and stop time, save it as an AAC file, and change the file extension.
  • You can then drag the edited song to the Tones section of iTunes and sync it with your iPhone using a connection cable.
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It doesn’t take long to get tired of the handful of ringtones that come with your iPhone. If you’d rather hear a song when you have an incoming call, Apple would like you to pay a dollar or more per ringtone in the Tones store.

But save your money; you can create your own ringtones using music you already own in your iTunes library.

Admittedly, the process is a bit convoluted – Apple didn’t make it super easy to use your own tones – and you will need to use iTunes on your computer. But it’s free and lets you convert any part of any song you own into a ringtone.

How to create a ringtone for your iPhone using iTunes

The below steps are specifically illustrated for iTunes on a PC, but you’ll use essentially the same process on a Mac computer.

1. Start iTunes on your computer.

2. Find the song that you’d like to use and decide what 30-second snippet of the track you want to make your ringtone. It can be the first 30 seconds of the song, the last, or anywhere else within the track. Note the start and stop time – this will come in handy shortly.

3. Right-click the song and click Song Info, then click the “Options” tab at the top of the dialog box.

4. Change the “start” and “stop” times to the time you decided in Step 2 and then click “OK.”

Ringtones 1Dave Johnson/Business InsiderSet the start and end point for your 30-second ringtone.

5. Make sure the song is still selected, and then click the “File” menu. Then click “Convert,” and “Create AAC version.” You should see a second version of the track appear in iTunes – the original and a 30-second version (which, you can’t tell by looking at it, but happens to be in the AAC format rather than MP3).

Ringtones 2Dave Johnson/Business InsiderAfter you create the AAC file, you’ll have two versions of the song in iTunes.

6. Drag the 30-second-long version of the song to your computer’s desktop.

7. Since you no longer need the short version of the song in iTunes and it will just be in the way if you listen to music using the iTunes app, delete the short version from iTunes. Click it in iTunes and press Delete. You may need to confirm this by clicking “Delete Song” and “Move to Recycle Bin.”

8. Go back to the file you copied to the desktop and, if you can see the complete filename including the “.m4a” file extension, change the extension from “.m4a” to “.m4r” and click “Yes” if your computer asks you to confirm this change. If you can’t see the extension, you’ll need to change a setting in Windows first:

Ringtones 3Dave Johnson/Business InsiderChange the file extension to ‘.m4r,’ which is what the iPhone uses for ringtones.
Ringtones 4Dave Johnson/Business InsiderIf needed, use the Control panel to let you see file extensions so you can rename the ringtone file.

9. Click “OK.”

10. Now you can go back to the song on the desktop and change the file extension.

11. If you want to, return to the Control Panel’s File Explorer Options and re-select the option to hide extensions. This will return your computer to its original settings.

How to copy the ringtone to your iPhone

Now that you’ve created the ringtone, it’s time to copy it to your phone.

1. Connect your iPhone to your computer using a connection cable.

2. Start iTunes and click the phone icon that appears in the upper left, beside the drop-down menu. You should now see details about your iPhone in iTunes.

Ringtones 5Dave Johnson/Business InsiderConnect your phone and then click the icon in iTunes to get ready to copy the ringtone.

3. If it’s not already selected, click “Summary” in the left pane and then, in the Options section on the right, click to check the option to “Manually manage music and videos.” Click “Apply.”

Ringtones 6Dave Johnson/Business InsiderWhen you choose to manually manage your music, it will copy to the device as soon as you drag it into iTunes.

4. On the left side of the screen, under On My Device, click “Tones.”

5. Drag your ringtone track from the desktop to the Tones folder. The song will automatically copy to your iPhone.

Ringtones 7Dave Johnson/Business InsiderYou can store as many custom ringtones on your phone as you like.

How to set the new ringtone on your iPhone

1. After all that work, it’s time to set the ringtone so you’ll hear it when your phone rings.

2. Start the Settings app on your iPhone.

3. Tap “Sounds” or “Sounds & Haptics” and then tap “Ringtone.”

4. You should see your new tone in the list; tap it.

Ringtones 8Dave Johnson/Business InsiderAfter you’ve stored ringtones on your phone, you should use the Settings app to select the one you want to hear.

You can also set up a custom ringtone for specific people in your contact list. To do that, open the Contacts app and choose a contact. Tap “Edit” and then tap “Ringtone.” Any choice you make here will be specific to this person and won’t affect your default ringtone.

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