8th September 2007

Putting custom ringtones on your iPhone

Author’s Edit: 06/26/09 – If you’re looking for an easy and cheap way to get ringtones on your iPhone, I’ve just reviewed Ringer, a new application to create ringtones for your iPhone, and give it a rare “5-paw” rating. I strongly encourage you to read my review and give Ringer a try!

Author’s Edit: 01/02/09 – This page still gets more pageviews than any other post on my site, so please read carefully. For the most part these instructions are STILL good – I still use them to add ringtones and I have the most current versions of iTunes and iPhone (first generation) firmware. PLEASE NOTE that I do NOT use a Windows computer and I don’t have a 3G phone (yet – the monthly data plan is still a bit too pricey for me – I’m waiting until it gets reasonable or I start making more money 🙂 ). If you are using a Windows computer, I’m truly sorry but there is little I can do to help you. If you have followed all of the instructions EXACTLY and are still having problems, your best course of finding a solution is to post in the Apple Discussion Forums.

Author’s Edit: The “free” method outlined below DOES still work with iTunes 7.6.1 and iPhone firmware 1.1.4 HOWEVER iTunes went back to using .m4r for the Ringtone extension, and ringtones MUST be under 30 seconds. Also, you no longer need any software to sync the custom ringtones you’ve created – iTunes will do it for you. Just be sure to remove the song snippet (in AAC format) from your Library list without moving it to the trash – find it, rename the extension to .m4r, and RE-open it with iTunes – it will move into your Ringtones folder and sync next time you sync your iPhone.

There’s a lot of buzz going around now about how to put custom ringtones on your Apple iPhone – some are hacks, some are applications, some are just tricks that work with iTunes. Some cost money, and some are free. I thought it might be useful to others to outline several options that I’m aware of – if I’ve missed any please post a comment. I’ll start with the easiest:

iTunes – Version 7.4 brought us the ability to buy (from the Music Store) and sync ringtones – nice, but many (like myself) are less than thrilled with having to pay twice for songs – once for the song and again for the ringtone. Granted, $1.98 is cheaper than some other ringtone sources that charge from $3 to $4 for ringtones, but it’s still annoying to have to pay the extra .99 cents when you’ve already purchased a song.

However, there IS a workaround that lets you put ringtones on using iTunes for FREE – just follow these steps:

  1. First, you do have to create a ringtone – you can use iTunes to trim a song down to the 15 to 30 seconds or so that you want to use as a ringtone, by selecting the song in your Library, click on “Get Info”, click on the Options tab, and change the start and stop times to isolate the snippet you want, click Okay, then click on Advanced >Convert to AAC. This will create a second, shorter version of the song in your Library, which you can find using the Finder (should be located in your /User/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music/ folder under the Artist and Album name). NOTE that this only works on unprotected songs – not those that you’ve purchased as iTunes will not convert songs that are in Protected AAC format. However, if you have you’re heart set on a song you’ve purchased, don’t despair, with software such as Ambrosia’s WireTap Pro or Rogue Amoeba’s AudioHijack Pro you’ll be able to get the snippet you want – yes this does mean it’s not exactly “free” since these are not free applications, but if you plan to use them to convert more than 20 or 30 ringtones, they are well worth the price;
  2. As mentioned above, save the ringtone in AAC format (which appends the song with .m4a);
  3. If you used iTunes to create the snippet, and the song is somewhere in your iTunes Music folder, you can either COPY it to a new place before renaming it, OR delete it from your iTunes Library first WITHOUT moving the file to the Trash. Then find the file and rename the file extension to .m4r instead of m4a;
  4. Double-click the new ringtone to open it with iTunes – note that you will NOT see this new ringtone in your Music Library, but it’s there in your iPhone’s Ringtones tab, which you can select and sync to your iPhone.

If you’ve already upgraded to iTunes 7.4.1, the .m4r file extension went back to m4a in the new version, so just leave it at .m4a (or rename it back to .m4a if you did this before upgrading).

iFuntastic – as I’ve previously mentioned, this application “unshackles” the iPhone and allows you to copy a number of things to it, including your own ringtones – this is freeware, but as I always say, throw the developer a donation if you like and use this product.

iToner – another great application from Ambrosia that allow you to put ringtones on the iPhone. This isn’t free, it’s $15, but is a great app and worth the price. It allows you to drag and drop any AAC or MP3 file to your iPhone to use as a ringtone, but be careful about using full length songs – if you like a lot of ringtones to choose from this can eat up a lot of space on your iPhone – trim them down to snippets first if you can.

I’ll post other methods as I become aware of them, but please feel free to comment if you know of others.

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25 Responses to “Putting custom ringtones on your iPhone”

  1. On August 31st, 2008,Teresa Says:

    I just read the article above for the Ringtone converting thing… but I don’t know how to change teh file extension from .m4a to .m4r…?

    Please e-mail me at: tigerlily_tracy789@hotmail.com

  2. 1 On October 13th, 2008,Adham Elmadhoun Says:

    i think i did everthing right all the way up to renaming the extension from .m4a to .m4r? how do i convert the extension.

  3. 2 On October 13th, 2008,Kitten Says:

    Hi Adham – the easiest way I know of is simply to rename it in the FInder (if you’re on a Mac) by either right-clicking and selecting “Get Info” or use a *s-l-o-w* double click to rename it. If you’re on a Windows PC just use Windows Explore (right-click on the “Start” button and choose “Explore”) to browse to your file, then just right-click and choose Rename.

  4. 3 On February 5th, 2009,Bert Says:

    HELP – After I synch I cannot see the ringtone in my sounds folder on the iPhone!
    I have created the ringtone as decsribed, it is in my ringtone folder in my library
    in itunes, I have set up itunes to synch all ringtones but after I synch I still
    cannot see it on my phone?????

  5. 4 On February 5th, 2009,Kitten Says:

    Hi Bert

    iTunes will let you create (and add to your Ringtones library) ringtones of any length but it will not sync them to your iPhone unless they are UNDER 30 seconds – if it is even 30.001 seconds it will not sync…..

    So be certain that your ringtone is NO MORE than 29 seconds and it should sync fine.

  6. 5 On February 27th, 2009,Will Says:

    ok, is there a minimum length requirement? Because I created one that was 6 seconds long, added it to my ringtone folder. It showing up in my ringtones folder, just not in my iphone settings >> sounds >> ringtones.
    Please help. P.S. — I have iphone 3g and most recent version of itunes

  7. 6 On February 28th, 2009,Kitten Says:

    Hi Will – as long as it’s under 30 seconds and in the right format (AAC with the file extension changed from .m4a to .m4r), and shows up in your Ringtones folder AND you have it checked to Sync under your iPhone’s settings tab when connected, it should sync.

    The fact that it’s not syncing can be due to only two things – either it’s not checked to sync OR it isn’t in the right format. You can’t start with an mp3 and just change the file extension – you might fool iTunes because iTunes will open any music file type, but you can’t fool your iPhone – it will only sync AAC files.

    So check those two things first – and if it still won’t sync, try getting iToner – it works flawlessly. Good luck!

  8. 7 On March 24th, 2009,briang Says:

    i have m4r files and they won’t drag into my ringtone folder. any suggstions?

  9. 8 On March 24th, 2009,Kitten Says:

    Hi Brian……don’t try to “drag” them to your Ringtones folder – let iTunes do that. Make sure you have “keep my music organized” checked in the iTunes preferences so that it copies file to the library, and be sure that ringtone/song snippet is NOT already IN your Library – if it IS, then delete it and make sure to NOT have iTunes send it to the trash – you just want to remove it from the Library.

    Then browse to the .m4r file and open it with iTunes, which should recognize it as a ringtone and put in it your Ringtones folder. Then you should be able to sync it to your iPhone.

    Good luck!

  10. 9 On July 8th, 2009,Scott Says:

    Hey kitten – I keep making the m4r file but I can never find in my iTunes (I’m running version 8.) I can find it If I go thru the finder as you outlined above – when I close out of it (hoping that the files will be organized by iTunes) it never shows up in the ringtones section… any ideas?

  11. 10 On August 1st, 2009,Aleem Says:

    I’m on windows with a 3g, what is do is convert the song to aac, change the extension to m4r, and put it in the ringtone folder on the iphone using iphonebrowser. I don’t bother trimming the song to 30 seconds, the entire song is the ringtone and it works.

  12. 11 On August 1st, 2009,Kitten Says:

    Hi Aleem – that’s a great solution! For whatever reason the 30-second limitation is imposed by iTunes, not by the iPhone itself – very creative of you to bypass iTunes this way.

    I plan to upgrade to the 3GS in the next couple of weeks, so I’m going to try various methods to see if putting a ringtone on the iPhone can be made even more simple – I like your solution, although if you keep a lot full length songs as ringtones it could use up quite a bit of storage (for some people this may not be an issue, but I prefer to use as much storage as possible for movies, tv shows, and audio books since I travel a lot)

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment – I appreciate it!

  13. 12 On August 15th, 2009,james Says:

    hi i exactly done what u said.i convert the tone which is below 30sec in aac format and then change it in m4r formate and it shows in ringtones. it will synchronisi but it wont seen in iphone.but i can see it in playlist.pls suggest me.thank you.

  14. 13 On August 16th, 2009,Kitten Says:

    Hi James

    It should NOT show up in your playlist at all. Ringtones are separate from the rest of your library, which includes music, audiobooks, podcasts, and video (just not ringtones) so if it is there, then there is something wrong.

    Most often it is because the song was not removed from the library before renaming it to .m4r. You cannot skip that step – after you have converted it, you have to delete it from your library but NOT move to trash, then browse to it in the finder, THEN rename it and reopen it with iTunes.

    If you’ve tried this and it’s still not working, then please try one of the other options, such as iToner or iRinger or Ringer (mentioned at the very top of this post)…….

  15. 14 On August 22nd, 2009,Marine Says:

    so i’ve done all the steps. made ringtone files under 30 seconds and synced them onto my iphone and all that jazz. however when i change my ringtone to my custom ringtones it just reverts back to marimba or whatever the basic ringtone is. when i check the settings the custom ringtone is selected and everything.

    all the files are .m4r and have sycned correctly.

  16. 15 On August 23rd, 2009,Kitten Says:

    HI Marine – that sounds like a very odd problem.

    I do know that in the past when I would sync my phone, it would revert my selected custom ringtones back to whatever was previously the default I had set from the standard ringtones, and it would do that for both the custom ringtones I had set for some of my individual contacts as well as the default ring for any incoming call that wasn’t associated with those contacts, but I think that went away with one of the last two or three software updates. I checked by doing a sync just now and it kept my changes to both the default ring and contact’s rings….

    So I can only suggest that you make sure your software is up to date, and beyond that perhaps make an appointment at your local Apple store with one of their Geniuses…..good luck!

  17. 16 On August 28th, 2009,JonnyT Says:

    Hey Kitten, I just got my iPhone 3G last night, I cant get to change the file to .mr instead of m4. Could you please help?

  18. 17 On August 28th, 2009,Kitten Says:

    Hey JonnyT

    When you have your song snippet in iTunes, you have to first remove it from the Library of Music, but DON’T click “yes” to send it to the trash, click “No”, then find it using Finder – then you can change the extension using Finder. You need to rename the extension .m4r

    Then when it’s renamed you simply re-open it with iTunes, and it will be in your Ringtone section of the Library.

    This works perfectly with the most current version of iTunes and the iPhone 3G and 3Gs – I’ve tested both.

  19. 18 On August 28th, 2009,JonnyT Says:

    What “finder” I have windows Vista :S

  20. 19 On August 28th, 2009,Kitten Says:

    Finder is the Mac equivalent of Windows Explorer – it’s just the file browser…..so use Windows Explorer to locate the file…

  21. 20 On August 29th, 2009,JonnyT Says:

    Ahh, well I used a website to do it and it worked good and only took mayb 5 minutes

  22. 21 On December 6th, 2009,Ezra Says:

    When I go and find the file in the finder in vista, after I have created the snippet, I go to rename it, but there is no extension to change, and when I add .m4r to the end of the song name it launches into my music library, and the song title in the finder goes back to having no extension. What can I do?

    Thanks for the help

  23. 22 On December 6th, 2009,Kitten Says:

    Hi Ezra
    I can only guess at the problem, since I am a Mac user, and don’t use Vista, but it sounds like perhaps your settings in Windows Explorer may be set to NOT show file extensions, commonly the default since Windows doesn’t want you messing around with them. In older versions of Windows you could change that by looking for a checkbox that said “hide file extensions” and deselecting it – then once you “see” the file extensions you can actually change them. By just adding it to what you see, you’re not really changing the file extention to .m4r, you’re just adding that to the name so it would look like this if you COULD see the extension: song.m4r.m4a – which iTunes would think is just a normal song file. You must be able to actually change the extension, not add to the file name.

    You may have to look up how to change that setting in Vista so that Windows Explorer always shows the file extensions.

    Good luck!

  24. 23 On December 13th, 2009,Eugene Says:

    Try highlighting the file, right-clicking it, and selecting Properties from the menu. In Properties, Type of file should read “Ringtone (.m4r) and Opens with iTunes. If not, click Change… then choose the program you want to use to open this file. Select OK and then OK again. That should do the trick.

    In Vista like XP there is also a way to show the file extensions so you can change them. From the Organize menu, select Folder and Search Options, View tab, then uncheck ‘Hide extensions for known file types.’ Click OK and viola, the extensions are displayed. You can proceed to change the extension, although remember that a file must really “be” what its extension suggests. If a file is not really a iTumes Rington then changing its extention to .m4r will not solve the problem. You must convert the file to an iTumes Ringtone (don’t as me how, I don’t know the specific steps). Ordinarily when a file “is” what it is, its extension will automatically reflect that. Changing an extension is only when you know the file is a certain format, but because it was sent by email missing its extension (perhaps to allow the email to fly under the radar due to virus blockers) you can proceed to add the correct extension. For example, changing the Excel file with .xls extension to Word file .doc extension will not magically turn an Excel file into a Word file. However, if someone sends you a Word file and accidentally named it with an .xls extension, or no extension at all, and you know it’s a Word file, you can safely add the .doc or .docx extension (depending on the version of Word) and it will open in Word. Same holds true with iTunes Ringtone files.

  25. 24 On October 11th, 2011,Shawn Says:

    there’s also an awesome free app that will let you make custom ringtones. found it the other day — http://mobile17.com/

    it worked really well and was super easy to use!

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