When it comes to iPhone ringtones, “Chimes” and “Ripple” will only get you so far. However, though there is a notable onslaught of available apps claiming to make the ringtone-crafting process easy, few pieces of software do it as reliably — and as cheaply — as Apple’s very own iTunes. It’s by no means the quickest, nor does it provide a dedicated feature for doing so, but it remains a sure-fire method without the need to download third-party software or fumble with cumbersome utilities. Whether your prefer the opening thumps to Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” or the imminent synth drop of radio blockbuster “Turn Down for What,” there’s plenty you can do with a little patience and the latest version of iTunes. Here’s our guide how to make ringtones, or any tone, for the iPhone using iTunes on Windows or Mac OS X.
Step 1: Open and update iTunes – To begin, launch iTunes in Windows or Mac OS X and ensure you’re using the latest version of iTunes — currently 12.0.1 — before you continue. To do so using Mac OS X, 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. Click the main toolbar in the upper-let corner of the main iTunes window and select Show Menu Bar if the Menu Bar isn’t visible already.
Step 2: Select your ringtone 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. After all, the human brain can only process so much of Pitbull and Kesha’s “Timber.”
Step 3: Select your favorite part of the song — 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 be your ringtone.
Step 4: Insert the start and stop times — Right-click or ctrl-click on the song you want and select Get Info
. Afterward, click the Options tab at the top of the window and insert your desired start and stop times in the corresponding fields before checking the the boxes directly left of both Start Time and Stop Time. Click OK when finished.
Step 5: Create AAC version — Once you’ve set the start and stop times, right-click or ctrl-click the same song again and select Create AAC Version. An AAC copy of the 30-second clip you selected will appear in your iTunes library directly beneath the original song.
Step 6: Copy the file & delete the old one — Right-click the new AAC version of the song once created, and drag it to the desktop or your desired save location. Afterward, right-click or ctrl-click the AAC file in iTunes and select Delete from the resulting drop-down lit. Click the Delete File button if prompted.
Step 7: Change the extension — Navigate to the desktop — or wherever you saved the file — single-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. Windows users might need to change your computer settings if you can’t see the extension when trying to rename the file. Simply open the Control Panel from the Start menu, select Appearance and Personalization, then click the Folder Options. Afterward, click the View tab, uncheck the box for “Hide extensions for known file types,” and click the Apply button.
Step 8: Add file to iTunes — Double-click the .m4r file or drag it into the iTunes source column in order to add it to your iTunes library. The new ringtone will automatically be added to the ringtones folder.
Step 9: Sync your iPhone — Once added, connect your iPhone with your iTunes library as you would normally via USB or using 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 10: Set the ringtone — Tap the main Settings app while viewing the iPhone homescreen, 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 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!
Updated November 10, 2014 by Brandon Widder: Added new screenshots and updated directions for navigating the newest version of iTunes as well as an instructional video. This article was originally published on 4-25-2013.