When it comes to iPhone ringtones, Chimes and Ripple will only get you so far. Discerning iPhone users need a ringtone that suits them, and what better choice than a song they love? Of course, nobody wants to pay for ringtones, and while there are several apps that offer to help users create their own ringtones, what many people might not know is that you can do this entirely with iTunes. The process can be a bit circuitous — it requires you to copy files and change extension names — but once you get the hang of it, it’s quick and easy. Below is our guide on how to make ringtones for the iPhone using iTunes, whether you want to hear a mournful jazz number or the latest hit when people call.
Choosing your song and creating an AAC version
Step 1: Open and update iTunes
To begin, launch iTunes in Windows or MacOS and ensure you’re using the latest version of iTunes — currently 12.5.4 — before you continue. To do so using MacOS, click iTunes in the main application toolbar and select Check for Updates from the resulting drop-down menu. If using Windows, click the Help option housed in the Menu Bar below the playback buttons, and select Check for Updates near the bottom of the resulting drop-down list.
Step 2: Choose a song
Choose the song you’d like to use for your new iPhone ringtone. Keep in mind that iPhone ringtones continually run in 30-second (or less) loops, so don’t pick something that you are going to regret later. Once you’ve chosen the appropriate song, memorize or jot down the start and stop times for the desired, 30-second portion of the song you wish to use as your ringtone.
Step 3: Add the start and stop times
One of the lesser-known features of iTunes is the software’s ability to “crop” songs and videos, which allows you to choose specific times for them to stop and end. This is how we will select a portion of a song to use as a ringtone. First, right-click or Ctrl-click the song you want and select Get Info from the resulting drop-down list.
Afterward, click the Options tab at the top of the window. There should be fields for Start and Stop. Enter the times you want. Remember that ringtones max out at 30 seconds, so keep it at or below that length. For our purposes, we’ll use a segment from 0:14 to 0:42 in the song. Once done, click OK at the bottom.
Step 4: Create an AAC version
AAC is an audio format that Apple prefers to use for its devices; essentially, it achieves the same sound quality as MP3 while using less storage space. Moreover, iTunes gives users the option to create an AAC version of any song they choose, which is nice when you need to conserve hard drive space and create a ringtone. Once you’ve set the appropriate start and stop times, with the short version of the song selected, go to File, Convert, and Convert to AAC Version. Because we’ve altered the start and stop times for the song, creating an AAC version will create a copy of that specific section of the song. The copy will then automatically appear in your iTunes library, directly beneath the original song.
Step 5: Copy the file and delete the old one
Once created, click the AAC version of your song and drag it to the desktop or your desired save location. This will copy the file to that location.
At this point, you probably no longer need the shortened song. Unless you want to keep the 30-second snippet for some reason, you might as well delete the file to clear up any unnecessary clutter. Right-click or Ctrl-click the AAC file in iTunes and select Delete from the resulting drop-down menu. Then, click the Delete File button, if prompted.
Changing the extension and setting your ringtone
Step 6: Change the extension
AAC files typically use the file extension “.m4a,” which you might notice when you click on your AAC file. For ringtones, however, iTunes uses the “.m4r” extension, which is the same as .m4a but with a different name. That being the case, we will need to change the extension from .m4a to .m4r in order to use this clip as a ringtone. Navigate to the desktop — or wherever you saved the file — click the file’s name, and change the extension from “.m4a” to “.m4r.” Click the Use .m4r or Yes button in the resulting window to confirm the changes.
Note that some Windows users may find that they’re unable to change the file extension. This is likely because their system is set to not show file extensions. To change this, open the Control Panel from the Start menu — you can also search for the Control Panel app in Windows 10 — and select Appearance and Personalization.
Next, click File Explorer Options.
Afterward, click the View tab, uncheck the box for “Hide extensions for known file types,” and click the Apply button at the bottom of the window. Now you should be able to see and edit the extension for the file.
Step 7: Add file to iTunes
Since we changed the .m4a file to an .m4r, we need to add it back to iTunes. To do so, click the File tab and select Add File to Library from the resulting drop-down menu.
Next, navigate to the file’s save location, select it from within the file browser, and click Open. Because iTunes recognizes .m4r files as ringtones, it will automatically add the file to the Tones section in iTunes. Now all you need to do is sync your iPhone with iTunes as you would normally.
Step 8: Sync your iPhone
Connect your iPhone with your iTunes library using a USB cable or your wireless network. Afterward, click the iPhone icon in the upper-left corner, select the Tones section in the left-hand navigation bar, and check the bubble directly left of either All tones or the Selected tones option. If you choose the latter option, remember to check the bubble directly left of your recently-made ringtone from the resulting list below. Click the gray Sync button in the bottom-right corner when finished.
Step 9: Set the ringtone
Tap the main Settings app while viewing the iPhone home screen, followed by Sounds and the Ringtone option near the bottom of the resulting menu. Afterward, select your desired ringtone from the top of the resulting list. Also, keep in mind you can always set the new ringtone as your text, voicemail, or email tone in addition to your notification sound for Facebook posts and tweets. A tone is a tone when it comes to Apple, and as such, you can use it as the default sound for any notification or alert. Repeat the process as necessary!