5th November 2007

How To: Create a Ringtone for 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. 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). 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: A lot of people are interested in how to create free ringtones for their iPhones, because this post gets more views than anything else on my site, so I’ve updated it to reflect both the current version of iTunes (as of this writing 7.6.1) and iPhone firmware (1.1.4).

Update – iTunes v.7.6.1 DOES support importing in your OWN .m4r files as Ringtones, and recognizes them as ringtones in your Ringtones Folder (and Ringtones Tab in the iPhone section when your iPhone is connected)……SO that means as long as you can create your ringtone as an ACC format and then change the extension from .m4a to .m4r, then open it with iTunes, you WILL be able to sync these ringtones to your iPhone using iTunes. iToner is not required (unless iTunes changes again – who knows?). Here’s the only caveat – the ringtones MUST be under 30 seconds in length.

SO to make a free custom ringtone for your iPhone, follow steps 1 and 2 below, choosing AAC as the format. You can skip step 3 if you don’t want any fade in/fade out effects, or try using GarageBand if you don’t want to spring for Fission or WireTap Studio. You’ll need WireTap Studio if you want to record the playback of “protected” music in order to get it into AAC format, but if you’re working with unprotected songs, you can get by without it. After step 2 you’ll have a new song that you can navigate to (should be in your iTunes Music Folder) and change the extension from .m4a to .m4r. Then open it in iTunes and it should open in your iTunes Ringtones Folder. That’s it! If you have trouble or questions leave a comment below and I’ll respond fairly quickly.

This past week I’ve received three emails from friends asking me to tell them exactly how to create a custom ringtone for their iPhones…… so for the sake of anyone else who could use a simple list of directions, here is how I make my iPhone ringtones:

My tools:

  • iTunes – any version will do, I use 7.4.2
  • WireTap Pro – only needed to record protected songs
  • Fission – to add a nice fade in/fade out effect
  • iToner – to sync my new ringtone (hack free) to my iPhone

Note: WireTap Pro has been replaced with WireTap Studio, which now includes the ability to modify music to add fade in/fade out and other effects, so if you’ve upgraded from WireTap Pro, you don’t need Fission. Also, I’m told that newer versions of GarageBand also allow adding fade in/fade out effects, but I’m not familiar with how to use GarageBand, so I’ll stick with how I do things.

1. Find the perfect snippet by listening to the song you want to use as a ringtone in iTunes, and make note of the start and end times in the display bar at the top. Try to keep the snippet to under 20 seconds (really, how long does it take you to answer your phone?), especially if you plan to put a lot of custom ringtones on your iPhone, to avoid taking up more space on your iPhone than is really needed – why record a 1 minute ringtone when you normally answer your phone in 10 seconds or less?

2. The next step depends on whether or not you’re making your ringtone from a Protected (purchased) song or not:

  • If it’s an unprotected song, simply right click and choose “Get Info”, then click on the “Options” tab, check the “Start Time” checkbox and enter the start time of the snippet you want to use, check the “Stop Time” checkbox and enter the end time of the snippet, then click on OK to save your changes. Then from the main Menu choose “Advanced” and “Convert song to ..”. It doesn’t matter if you convert it to AAC or MP3, as the file size difference for 10 or 20 seconds is neglible, and iToner can sync most music file formats to your iPhone. This will create a second instance of the song in your iTunes Music Library that is a much smaller file size, since it consists of only the snippet you chose. It doesn’t matter if you want to keep this short song in your Library or not, but if you choose not to, be sure to navigate in your Finder to the song, and copy it somewhere safe (maybe a new folder called Ringtones?) so that if you ever forget and delete it you won’t lose what you’ve created.
  • If the song you want to use for a custom ringtone is a protected song, open WireTap Pro (or the newer WireTap Studio), start playing your song snippet a couple of seconds before you want to record, then click on the Record button in WireTap Pro/Studio to start the recording. Click on the Stop button when you’ve reached the end of the snippet you want, and give your snippet a name to save it to your computer. Although WireTap allows you to choose a file type in the Preferences pane, which file type you save as (AAC or MP3) isn’t important since iToner can work with most music file types).

3. Open the song snippet you’ve created using either of the two methods just described, using either Fission or WireTap Studio, select the first 2 or 3 seconds and click “Fade In”, select the last 2 or 3 seconds and click “Fade Out”, then save your modified ringtone.
4. Connect your iPhone to your computer, then open iToner, and using the Finder to locate your modified ringtones, drag them to iToner’s main window, and when you’re done dragging your new ringtones to iToner, click on the Sync button at the bottom.
5. That’s it! You’re done! Your new custom ringtones will appear on your iPhone in its list of ringtones, and can be applied as you like – for your default ring, and/or for contacts in your contact list.

Very easy, no hacks, no problems!

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35 Responses to “How To: Create a Ringtone for your iPhone”

  1. On March 15th, 2008,allen Says:

    what about if you’re on a PC?? iToner will not work
    can you just use iTune to transfer the customed ringtone on to the iPhone???? please contact me on msn teknodogg @ hotmail.com

  2. 1 On March 15th, 2008,Kitten Says:

    Hi teknodogg – I’ll contact you directly but thought I’d answer here as well in case anyone else with a PC needs to know the same thing….the answer is yes, you can just use iTunes – you don’t need iToner (as of now – if Apple changes iTunes again and makes it NOT recognize ringtones that are not purchased, then iToner would be needed, but for now it’s not).

    Just make sure you do this – after converting your under-30-seconds song snippet to AAC format (which gives it an extension of m4a) that you change that extension to .m4r and then re-open it in iTunes. iTunes should then load it as a ringtone, and sync it to you iPhone. This works in Windows as well as Mac.

  3. 2 On March 25th, 2008,Eric R Says:

    I follow all the steps from every site out there, and finally when I try to sync the ringtones to my phone it goes through the sych but they never go onto the phone. What gives?

    1.1.4 phone itunes

    can anybody help me?

  4. 3 On March 26th, 2008,Josh Says:

    I have successfully done this before. Today however I changed a number of mp3’s to AAC, then changed to .m4r, then back into itunes, synced phone, they show as ringtones, except none of the new ones play on phone, they play on computer and are shorter then 30 seconds. Old ones still work. What’s up? Latest versions of software.

  5. 4 On March 26th, 2008,Kitten Says:

    Hi Josh – very odd. I tested this by making a new one just now but had no problems – it plays fine on my iPhone. I followed the same process (above) as you – started with an MP3, converted to AAC, removed from my Library, browsed to the file and changed the extension to .m4r, opened with iTunes, verified that it shows up on both my Ringtones folder (on the left) and the Ringtones Tab for my iPhone, sync’d, and then played it on my iPhone by going to Settings>Sounds>Ringtones.

    I’m using iTunes 7.6.1 and my iPhone is 1.1.4, on a PowerMac G5. What OS are you using? I have a few around here and don’t mind testing on other systems….

  6. 5 On March 27th, 2008,Kitten Says:

    @Eric – I’m glad we finally found a fix for the problem you’re having! If anyone else is still having problems syncing ringtones to the iPhone using iTunes, be sure that

    1. You have your Preferences set to let iTunes keep your music organized and copy files to your Library; and

    2. You do NOT have checked the “Manually manage music and videos” option on your iPhone settings on the General Tab when it’s plugged into iTunes – you can use either “Automatically Sync” or “Sync only checked songs and videos”, but NOT “Manually manage”

    If anyone else still has problems, post a comment and I’ll try to help!

  7. 6 On June 14th, 2008,SMALLz Says:

    man i need help what am i doing wrong i have been several places and followed all steps no luck what gives??? is it because i have Windows??

  8. 7 On June 14th, 2008,Kitten Says:

    Hi SMALLz – no it would not have to do with Windows. I will email you directly – there are a few MUSTS with the way this works, for example your ringtone MUST be no longer than 30 seconds – even a fraction of a second longer and iTunes will not sync your ringtone…..it MUST be in AAC format which creates the snippet with an extension of .m4a and you MUST change that to .m4r AFTER you’ve removed it from your Library (but not trashed the file), then reopen it with iTunes……

  9. 8 On July 14th, 2008,Flipperz Says:

    It just will not work for me:( ughh!! Kitty if you hear this HELPPP!!!!:)

    I bought the iphone8gb 3G 2 days ago and the ringtones on it are brutal. I followed the steps but it doesn’t seem to work. I am using Windows Vista. When I rename the file from .m4a to .m4r and I right click on it and click on properties…it still says that its an .m4a file. And when I open it in iTunes…it plays under MUSIC(library) and not under Ringtones. The file is 27 seconds long, I got rid of the ones in the library (not trashed) then I renamed it..but it just wont do! I have the most recent iTunes.
    and my phone version is 2.0

    please try to email me (ANYONE) who can help me out! Thank you everyone for your help! take care!


  10. 9 On July 15th, 2008,Kitten Says:

    Hi Flipperz

    I don’t have the new 3G iPhone (yet) but I did upgrade to iTunes 7.7.043 just yesterday, so I’ll try running through the process to see if I can narrow down the problem to either iTunes or the new iPhone. I have done this successfully for a friend on a Windows Vista computer for the older iTunes/iPhone combo, so I don’t think the problem is with Vista…..I’ll report back later this morning..

  11. 10 On July 18th, 2008,mcragg29 Says:

    i have the same problem with the new 3g iphone cant make ringtones and they dont show up under ringtones they show up under music…..need some help!


  12. 11 On July 18th, 2008,K2Z Says:

    I have the iphone 3G and itunes as well and I’m having the same problems putting ringtones into itunes and onto my phone. The files don’t show up when I name them m4r or as m4a. Itunes doesn’t say that there is a problem or anything, but nothing happens! This is so frustrating.

    Any help on this issue would be greatly appreciated!!!!

  13. 12 On July 18th, 2008,Kitten Says:

    If you have a Windows computer then you might try the free iRinger


    If it works, toss them a donation…….

    For Mac users, the latest version of iToner works with the iPhone 3G and iTunes 7.7

  14. 13 On July 20th, 2008,Zay Says:

    iRinger worked for me. I have 16g iPhone 3G, Windows Vista, Itunes 7.7. Very easy to use. Watch the Youtube video tutorial does not get much easier than this.

  15. 14 On August 14th, 2008,Mr. Fixit Says:

    Kitten, I am running Vista. Followed every step and ring tone appears in iTunes Ringtone folder. After connecting iPhone went to ringtones and checked box beside title of new ringtone to synch it to phone. After sync when I click on iTunes to look at files on my phone the new ringtone is listed as if it is on my phone. However when I go to my phone the ring tone is not there.

    Any ideas??

  16. 15 On August 15th, 2008,aubrjae Says:

    I am having the same problem. My ringtone shows up in the ringtones section with the m4r extension, I checked all the setting mentioned above. What else could I possibly do? Please…………help…….me..!!!!!!

  17. 16 On August 15th, 2008,Kitten Says:

    @Mr Fixit

    The only time I had the same trouble (could create the ringtone fine and it seemed to sync but did not), it turned out that my ringtone was a tiny fraction of a second longer than 30 seconds – iTunes simply will NOT sync a ringtone longer than 30 seconds. I edited the errant ringtone to be only 28 seconds and then it really did sync fine.

    If you’re absolutely certain your ringtone is not more than 30 seconds and you still have this trouble, give iRinger a try (if you have Windows) or iToner (if you have a Mac)…..both will sync ringtones independently of iTunes.

    Good luck!

  18. 17 On December 9th, 2008,Pree Says:

    I understand most of this, but how do you convert the extension? Im using iTunes version 8.0.2.
    Please helpp. 🙂

  19. 18 On December 10th, 2008,Kitten Says:

    Hello Pree

    The easiest way to do that is by using the Finder (on a Mac) or Windows Explorer (on a PC)…..you can right click and choose “rename” then just change the extension to m4r, or if you double-click slowly it will also let you rename the file.

    You want to be sure first that the song snippet has been removed from your iTunes Library (listing) but not moved to the trash – then when you open it again with iTunes it should appear in your Ringtones list.

    Good luck!

  20. 19 On December 27th, 2008,joel Says:

    hi i have a pc and i made the ringtones into m4r i put like 10 diferent ones in my iphone but when i go to the ringtones section on my ipod all the ringtones have the same name and the song is the same how do i make it so that it reconizes all my ringtones diferently not the same

  21. 20 On December 27th, 2008,Kitten Says:

    Hmmm……that is a very interesting problem – one I haven’t heard of. I’d suggest this though:

    First go to the Ringtones tab in your iTunes – make sure that each ringtone is UNDER 30 seconds – even the tiniest fraction of a second over 30 (which won’t show in the Time colum since it only shows seconds) will cause problems – so 29 seconds or less. Then try to play each one to be sure they pay fine in iTunes. Then do a Sync cycle with the Ringtones DE-selected so that they will (should) be removed from your iPhone. On the next Sync, select the “Sync All Ringtones” OR select which ones you want Sync’d, then when you do a Sync they should show up again on your iPhone.

    REMEMBER that you need to start with your ringtones in the AAC format before you rename the extension to .m4r – iTunes will not Sync ringtones created in a different format. You can convert them to AAC using the Advanced menu in iTunes, then after converting them follow the steps to delete them (NOT moving them to the trash), renaming, and reimporting back into iTunes as outlined above. If you don’t want to conver them you can simply sync them using iToner instead of iTunes.

    If this doesn’t work, post back. My next suggestion would be to delete them and start from the top, and also to reset your iPhone before re-syncing the ringtones.

    Good luck and let me know how it turns out.

    When you do a Sync it backs up whatever data is on your iPhone, so resetting it is safe. To reset your iPhone

  22. 21 On January 2nd, 2009,Jason Says:

    man i did every thing right. i have win xp and i have my ring file on the desktop but when i click and drag to my ringtones section it wont transfer. i have the + symbol like it knows it will work but it doesn’t. please help

  23. 22 On January 2nd, 2009,Kitten Says:

    Hi Jason

    Gosh it’s hard to know what’s going on with your ringtone – all I can think of is to first review the basics – did you start with an AAC file? Cut it down to under 30 seconds? Remove it from your Library (not sending it to the Trash), find it in your iTunes Music folder and change the extension to .m4r, then re-open it with iTunes? If you have followed all of those steps to the letter and for some reason it still won’t show up under your Ringtones tab and sync right, you may have to try one of the third-party apps for syncing ringtones, such as iRinger (for Windows) http://www.iringer.net/

  24. 23 On March 31st, 2009,Shelia Says:

    I have read all the solutions and problems on
    here with the Iphone ringtones. Well, I have
    this problem. I downloaded IRinger. Pretty
    cool app. Very easy to use and get the ringtones into Itunes. I then synced to my
    3G Iphone. They are in the phone. Even works when someone calls. Only thing is that
    the one that is for default doesn’t come on
    and it’s the same for all the contacts which
    I had their own ringtones. I have checked and rechecked. Ringtones are on the phone.
    I have each one of the contacts that I chose with their ringtone selected. Check
    mark by the one for that contact. But when it rings…it’s always the same song which isn’t the contacts and isn’t even the one I chose for default for other calls.
    What gives. Have turned off my phone…. turned back on and resynced… still the
    same thing. Any suggestions.

  25. 24 On March 31st, 2009,Kitten Says:

    Hi Sheila

    Wow that is an odd problem! Unfortunately I do not use iRinger (which is for Windows users), nor do I have the 3G model iPhone (yet)…..so I can’t even begin to hazard a guess at what is going on for you.

    My best suggestion would be to post in the Apple Discussion forums for iPhone issues (although Apple would not support a windows app to sync ringtones, maybe some users might chime in) and also to post in the iRinger Support Forum to see if they can help. The latter will probably be a better bet.

    Good luck – if you DO find the solution i would be very interested in knowing it – please bookmark this page and come back to fill me in 🙂

  26. 25 On July 16th, 2009,stewart Says:

    when i convert mp3 to aac and copy and paste it to a folder outside of itunes to change the file extention to m4r it tries to open it with quicktime and wont let me edit the extention. these are not protected by itunes. do you know how i can fix this? i had to update to 8.2 itunes today and now i have this problem.

    thanks stewart

  27. 26 On July 16th, 2009,Kitten Says:

    Hi Stewart – sounds like a double-click problem maybe? A very slow double-click lets you edit a name, a fast double-click opens the file. Try just right-clicking on the file and choose “Rename” – hopefully that will help…..if not post back and we’ll go from there.

  28. 27 On August 6th, 2009,Ramon Calamba Says:

    I’m using itunes 8.2.1 with windows vista. On the library under music, how come all the songs are in square box & not in lined showing the title, the artist & etc. And the background is black. Is this the new version? When i right click a box to create a ringtone, get info. & i can still do the start time & stop time. But after that when i right click the song again, there’s no selection where i can “convert selection to AAC”. Do i need to connect my iphone while doing this step? Please help me !!!

  29. 28 On August 6th, 2009,Kitten Says:

    Hi Ramon

    On the first issue, it sounds like you have the view set to Cover Flow. Since I’m a Mac user it’s hard for me to know what you see in the Vista version of iTunes, but in mine there are three buttons in the upper right corner next to the search box – one with lines (list view), one with two rows of squares (thumbnail view) and one with a square with vertical lines on both sides, which is cover flow view. Just click on the buttons to see the different views.

    On your song that you want to convert, once you have the start/stop times set, and you have it selected (highlighted) then the Convert is in the Advanced menu at the top. Note that the format it converts to is now – with all iTunes versions at 8.0 & above – controlled by the format you set for importing in the preferences – so you may have to change that in your settings first to be able to convert to AAC.

  30. 29 On August 9th, 2009,Ramon Calamba Says:

    Thanks… i got it already. Another thing, is there any way i can use the customized ringtones to change the message alert tone in my iphone? I have an iphone 3gs unlock & jailbroke.

  31. 30 On August 11th, 2009,Kitten Says:

    @Ramon – glad you got it worked out! On using ringtones as message alerts, I don’t know of a way to do that yet – today is the day I upgrade my iPhone to the new 3GS, so I intend to play around with it to see what can be done. If yours is unlocked & jailbroke, then perhaps there is some 3rd party app that would do that for you…..good luck! If you find one I’d love to know about it.

  32. 31 On August 11th, 2009,rachel Says:


    I m trying to create ring tone from iTunes on Mac, I can manage to convert to AAC and change the file extension from .m4a to .m4r. Mac recognized it is a ring tone file but when I double click and play it. It doesn’t flow into ring tone page where “Ringtone” on the left hand panel was empty. It plays from the Music Library. Please help.



  33. 32 On August 12th, 2009,Ramon Calamba Says:

    Go to http://www.everythingicafe.com then click forum, then iphone modifications, then scroll down & look for changing message, email tones. I think it’s on page 2. Just read the thread. My only problem is, i don’t have an internet access on my iphone so i can’t open cydia. I will just wait for the next iphone upgrade, probably they will allow to change message alert tones without internet access just like the customized ringtones.

  34. 33 On August 12th, 2009,Kitten Says:

    @Ramon – Thanks so much for posting what you found…I will definitely check it out!

    @Rachel – Since this post is about using iToner, you may have missed the other post I wrote that outlines all the steps using iTunes, and there is one step that you must not miss – after you’ve converted your song snippet to AAC you MUST remove it from your Music Library (but NOT send the file to Trash)…..THEN you find it using Finder and rename the extension and re-open it with iTunes. If you don’t remove it before renaming it and then re-import it, iTunes won’t really recognize it as a ringtone………give that a try and post back your results. Good luck!

  35. 34 On August 12th, 2009,Ramon Says:

    Kitten…you’re welcome. If you know how to create a customized message alert tones without using internet access on iphone just like the customized ringtones… pls. teach me. I would like to change also my voice mail alert tone. Thanks !!!

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