How To Create a Free iPhone Ringtone Using iTunes

Want to make an iPhone ringtone with your own music? Just follow the step-by-step instructions below. Make sure to start out with songs that are mp3s or are otherwise DRM-free. *Updated for iTunes 11*

How to Make an iPhone Ringtone in iTunes:

1. Open iTunes.

2. Open Preferences in the iTunes menu at the top (it may be under Edit for Windows users):

Create iPhone Ringtone Step 1

3. Select the General tab:

Create iPhone Ringtone Step 2

4. Select Import Settings:

Import Settings

5. Click on the dropdown list after Importing Using:

Click on DropDown

6. Select AAC Encoder (it may already be the default):

Set iTunes Encoder to AAC

7. Select OK to go back to the Preferences, then select OK again.

Select OK

8. Select Music in the left iTunes sidebar and find a song you want to make into a ringtone:

Select Music in iTunes

9. You’ll need to find a 40 second or less section of the song to turn into a ringtone. Note (or write down) the starting and stopping point of the section of the song. You can see the time of the song in the play window at the top of iTunes:

iTunes Song Time

10. Right click on the song, and select Get Info:

Right Click and Select Get Info

11. Select the Options tab at the top:

Options Tab

12. Enter the start and stop time of the clip in the corresponding boxes and make sure the checkboxes are checked when you are finished:

Start and Stop

13. Click OK in the bottom right.

14. In the iTunes menu at the top, click Advanced, then Create AAC Version from the drop-down menu (in iTunes 11, it’s File –> Create New Version –> Create AAC Version):

Create AAC version of song

15. You should see a second version of the song appear in iTunes, only with the shorter play time. Click to play to make sure it sounds how you’ll want the ringtone to sound.

A Second Shortened Copy of the Song is Created

16. We aren’t quite finished yet! Now we have to change the file format so that it will appear as a ringtone in iTunes.

17. Navigate to the folder where the new clip is stored on your computer (it will be in the same folder as the original version of the song). To find it in Windows, right-click the clip in iTunes, then choose Show in Explorer. For Mac, right-click and select Show In Finder.

18. Copy the song (press Control and C for Windows, Command and C for Mac), and paste the song in the same folder (Control and V or Command and V) so that a third version appears.

Third Copy of Song

19. Now, change the file extension of the third version from .m4a to .m4r.

Troubleshooting: Don’t see the file extension? Windows 7: click the Start button, Control Panel–>Appearance and Personalization–>Folder Options–>View tab–>and uncheck Hide Extensions for known file types. For Windows XP: in the Explorer window, go to Tools –> Folder Options –> View and uncheck Hide extensions for known file types. For Vista: Organize –> Folder and Search Options and uncheck Hide extension for known file types.

Change File Extension to m4r

20. Rename the file, if you want (for example, CoolRingtone.m4r). Note: If there are symbols such as underscores or hyphens in the name, you must remove them.

21. Important: In iTunes, delete the first AAC clip you made by right-clicking on the clip and selecting delete (if you don’t do this, iTunes might not accept the new ringtone):

22. Go back to the folder with the new ringtone file (.m4r file). Drag and drop the file into iTunes. Or import it by opening iTunes, select File, and select: Windows XP/Vista: Add File to Library, Mac: Add to Library.

Add Ringtone to iTunes Library

23. Now we need to sync the ringtone to your iPhone. Connect the iPhone to the computer.

Connect the iPhone to Computer

24. Click on your iPhone in the left sidebar in iTunes (Note: for iTunes 11, your iPhone can be found under Devices at the top right):

Add Photos to iTunes Step 2a

25. Click on the Tones tab, check the Sync tones checkbox, then check either All tones or Selected tones. If you choose Selected ringtones, make sure your new ringtone is also checked so it will sync:

iTunes 10 select Tones to sync

26. Now click the Apply button in the bottom right (it may also say Sync. Click Sync if it does).

Click Apply or Sync

And that’s it. You’ve done it! The ringtone is now on the iPhone. Got to Settings on your iPhone, tap Sounds, and you can change to your new ringtone. If the ringtone doesn’t show up on the iPhone, follow the Troubleshooting steps below, else go to the Clean Up section for one important last step.


Did the ringtone not appear on your iPhone? Follow these steps.

1. Click on the Summary tab for your iPhone in iTunes:

2. See if the checkbox labeled Manually manage music and video is checked. If not, check it.

3. Click on Tones in the left sidebar (older versions of iTunes may say Ringtones instead) and find the ringtone:

Click on Tones in Left Sidebar of iTunes

4. Drag and drop the ringtone onto your iPhone in the left sidebar. The iPhone should begin synching immediately, and the ringtone will appear shortly on your iPhone:

More Troubleshooting

Problem: I don’t see Tones or Ringtones in the iTunes Sidebar.

Go into Preferences–>General, and under Show make sure the Tones checkbox is checked.

Problem: You get a scary message “All existing songs, movies and TV shows on the iPhone will be removed.”

You likely received this message because you’ve never synced your iPhone with iTunes before and therefore don’t have a back-up of your iPhone data. Cancel the current sync. Unplug your iPhone and plug it back in again. Right click on your iPhone in the left sidebar and select Back Up:

How to back up iPhone to your computer

Now that iTunes has an image of your current iPhone to work from, right click on it again in the left sidebar and select Sync.

Clean Up

You made the ringtone, but there’s one clean-up task to do. We need to fix the Start/Stop time of the original song. Otherwise, the next time you play the song, it won’t play the whole thing. In iTunes, right click the original song, select Get Info –> Options and reset the Start/Stop time by deleting the numbers and leaving the fields blank. All done!


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713 Responses

  1. Cheryl says:

    Wow, what a great tutorial. I so appreciate all the time it took to do this. Thank you so very much. I will be sharing with my iPhone friends.

  2. Cheryl says:

    Hi again. I tried creating my own ringtone and discovered that it needs to be 30 seconds or less. I had 35 seconds and it wouldn’t work. It drove me crazy until I did a search and found that little tidbit. I just wanted to pass this along and hopefully save others some frustration and time. You still have a fantastic tutorial.

    • Alan says:

      For me it was 40 seconds or less, which leads me to think it may actually be limited to file size rather than the length of the ringtone timewise.

  3. Michele says:

    When I tried to create the AAC version from the drop-down menu, I got an error message that said it “could not be converted because protected files cannot be converted to other formats.” Do you think this is because I originally bought the song from iTunes? iTunes didn’t offer the song as a ringtone-or else I probably would have purchased it. Frustrating….

    • Alan says:

      You may be able to redownload old songs you’ve purchased in iTunes without DRM on them (Apple no longer uses DRM on songs). On your computer, go into iTunes, log on to the store, go to the Quick Links section on the right side and click Purchased . Select Music and find the song.

    • Kate says:

      Just download the free ringtone app! Sooooo much easier!!!!

  4. Brittany says:

    When creating the ringtone does it have to be songs I’ve bought from iTunes?

  5. Ashley says:

    My computer doesn’t want to let me change the file extension of the third version from .m4a to .m4r. Unless I am doing it wrong. I can’t figure out how to change it.

    • Brenda says:

      OK, I had the same issue and what I did was:
      On the folder where the song is located (the smaller version for your ringtone) I pressed F2 (to change the name of it). So my songs name was originally “NoreasonToHide.m4a” and I renamed it to “Myringtone.m4r” and it changed to the m4r but I had to change it manually, from m4a to m4r, and then it appeared in my ringtones on iTunes. Hope that is helpful.

      • Katy says:

        It didn’t help with mine, since I have a laptop the F2 controls my brightness. Does anyone know how to change it to a m4r on an HP Laptop?

        • Kym says:

          You should be able to hit or hold the blue FN (function) key usually at the bottom left of the laptop keyboard and then hit F2. Many laptops have the utilities as the defalt for the F-keys instead of being able to actually use the F-keys. Frustrating.

  6. Swathi.C says:

    Thank u so much for a great tutorial!!
    i always wanted a custom ringtone but did not know how, so tried this tutorial and it worked!!
    so thank u again !

  7. Miranda says:

    I did everything and i can see it on the left hand column under tones, however i cannot find it on my iPhone anywhere… help.

    • Alan says:

      On the iPhone, go into Settings > Sounds > Ringtone and make sure you swipe both up and down if you can’t find the ringtone. There’s a weird quirk where it appears you’re at the top of the ringtone list when you really aren’t.

    • Lindsey says:

      I had the same problem.. The song was listed at the top instead of alphabetically.

  8. Karen says:

    Can’t save it into my tunes???

  9. emma says:

    I don’t have a tones tab in my itunes :-( went thru everything you said to do and it won’t appear. I have one on the left handside of itunes but none on top – any suggestions? Thanks so much

    • Kelly says:

      Have you gone to the ‘trouble shooting’ section at the bottom of the tutorial? I didn’t have a ‘tones’ either, but that sorted it out for me. Good luck.

    • Abby says:

      Mine is doing the same thing emma, i cant get it onto my phone bc i cant select them or sync them :-/ help?!

  10. Bella says:

    So I might sound a little tech dumb, lol, but I cant get the ringtone to go into itunes at all. I have a mac so the file is in finder, I dragged it to itunes and it didn’t go in. I then tried to drag it straight into the ringtone folder and it didn’t go in. Any idea how to fix it? It’s only 25 seconds long so I dont think the length is a problem.

    • Kathy says:

      I am having the same exact problem. :P

    • Bay says:

      That happened to me then I realized I hadn’t deleted my clip out of my itune. As soon as did this it copied to my iTunes tunes great! Also, the step before, make sure you have that 3rd copy that is labeled “copy” this is the one you want to convert to m4r. My issues were all user error. ;) make sure you follow each step exactly!

  11. kariyn says:

    just did this for my iPhone 5, works a treat, thanks. The only issue I ran into was that when i was syncing my tones it whipped my other music, but no probe as I just re synched it after if synched the tones……AWSOME :-)

  12. christina says:

    I do not have a tones tab to select when i select my phone after connecting to itunes. (see #25) i have downloaded the latest versions of itunes and iOs software. None of my ringtones show up in the tones section on the left side of itunes either…??

  13. Carlita says:

    Thank you again for posting this tutorial, but here’s my problem. I did the troubleshooting tips of backing up and syncing my iPhone and yet I am still receiving a prompt stating that it will erase my iPhone when I attempt to sync the new tone. What do I do!? Please.

  14. Meghan says:

    I had the same problem where I couldn’t find it in my ringtones. I did what you said to the other people with problems and it isn’t anywhere in my ringtones. Is there a different place I’m supposed to look for it?!

  15. Kelly says:

    Easy to use if you follow the instructions!

  16. Kelly says:

    Nothing is showing up in my tones folder on my phone or library.
    I have done everything it says up there, and what other people suggected. Nothing is working.

  17. Christa says:

    So I did this and got as far as listening to the 30 seconds to make sure it’s what I wanted it to be. It won’t play at all. And the original song in my i-tunes won’t play either now :( how do I fix it?

  18. Jessica says:

    I am in need of some help, I did all the steps, I even had to go to the “trouble shooting” paragraphs to do everything in complete.. But still i have nothing in my “tones” folder. I copyed, pasted, renamed file, deleted from itunes, then added new file name into itunes and nothing. HELP PLEASE

  19. Jim says:

    So weird, everything was super easy to use and worked great, and the ringtone is showing up under “tones” in my itunes, but is sitting in “tones” under my iphone drop down with the two little arrows in a circle next to it, which would indicate “syncing”…but nothing changes, and it never appears on my phone, despite several attempts.

    Any ideas?


  20. Marlisa says:

    My issue starts @ #10. I have a MAC. No right clicking for me! ????

  21. Tiffany says:

    dosent work at all for me

  22. sally says:

    Thanks! Worked perfectly!

  23. AmberLynn says:

    mine doesnt show the m4a and when i go to details it wont let me change it any suggestions?

  24. ktlyn says:

    i tried creating a ringtone but when i got to step 25 my itunes doesnt give an option for “tones” or “ringtones” :(

  25. Minette says:

    So I completed the process, but how do I set it as a tone once on my phone? I had to troubleshoot so it ended up in my music player on my iPhone and I can’t set it for a contact because it doesn’t end up as tone setting under the settings in iPhone. Anyone?

  26. Allison says:

    Is there anyway to make it a text tone?

  27. Alina says:

    Works perfectly for me. Thank you so much !

  28. Erin says:

    Wow thank you! I would have never figured this out on my own. Best instructions I could find by far!

  29. Veronica says:

    This is great!. I am having fun doing my own ringtones now. Thanks!

  30. Kay says:

    I cannot find a “Tones” or “Ringtones” section of my iTunes at all. What do I do now?

  31. Nikki says:

    When trying to select “create ACC version” under advanced tab, it is greyed out, cannot select!!!?????
    Help!! Please!!

  32. Dana says:

    How do you do this with the new version of iTunes? I don’t see a menu at the top left with an advanced anymore that iTunes has updated.

    • Alan says:

      This method still works, some menu items have just been moved around a bit. I am working on an updated version on these instructions for iTunes 11. For that step (Step 14), now go to File –> Create New Version –> Create AAC Version

  33. lululanantaise says:

    i ‘ve been doing this successfully for a long time, but now i have iTunes11, i can’t do it any more.
    settings Start and Stop time are not considered when converting to ACC…., so tracks keep original duration.
    have tried with many MP3 or M4A files…

    going crazy with it…

    does someone know about it ?

  34. Aften says:

    Awesome! Works perfect for iPhone5 and windows 7


  35. Serena says:

    These are great directions I’m just having problems getting it into iTunes.

    I changed the extension to .m4r from an mp3 and then went into iTunes to add to the library clicked OK and nothing happened. It didn’t show up in Tones or in Music what do I do?

  36. Lottie Taylor says:

    After I add the song to my library nothing shows up when I click on tones under my iPhone. Did I miss something?

  37. VIntageDiva says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! Of all the instructions I’ve found, yours worked PERFECTLY every step of the way. Happy Holidays!

  38. Ma says:

    I’m having a terrible time figuring out how, exactly, to get this into the tones folder. Yes, I’ve read the troubleshooting section, and I’ve followed all the directions, and still nothing shows up in Tones. Working on a MacBook Pro, phone is a iPhone 4S.

  39. Lorna says:

    It worked! Can’t believe I was able to follow the instructions, but obviously you gave really good instructions. Thanks for taking the time to put this (with screen shots) out there and sharing it with the rest of us. You make me SMILE!!! (that’s also my new ringtone, lol)

  40. Allyson says:

    When I go to “tones” under my iPhone, there is not a checkbox or button that says “sync tones”. What do I do? And how do I get the new file to transfer to tones? It is in the music file right now.

  41. Allyson says:

    New problem. I got it to the tones file. But now when I transfer it onto my phone, it shows up in my music instead of my ringtones.

  42. Goga says:

    How can I remove the new tone from my iphone and iTunes if I no longer want it?

  43. Wendy Guernsey says:


    I LOVE you!!! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. Precise, clear instructions, and easy as can be. Losing all my old ringtones I had collected when I switched to an iPhone was one of my biggest gripes. Now I can have them all back! Thanks again!!

  44. Meghan R. says:

    This is absolutely fantastic! Thank you so much for taking time to publish this. I followed all the steps, ran into some issues, followed the troubleshooting and it had everything I needed to fix it. Awesome work dude!!!

  45. T Edward says:

    This may seem silly but does “adding to library” make a huge difference? it seems as it doesnt get added anywhere. Everything went smooth before this step. Then, when I go into tunes, There are none there which im assuming is why there is no option to SYNC. Please Help :)

  46. dev says:

    its not working mate!

  47. bishal shrestha says:

    thank you …it worked… is step by step and easy to follow instructions…..greets bishal shrestha

  48. Burgen says:

    Thanks, great tut and it worked!!!

  49. Courtney Zhang says:

    Thank you so much for putting in the time and effort into this tutorial. I greatly appreciate this resource you have created, and always come back to it when looking to create a new ringtone.

  50. rocio says:

    Thank You!!!!!!!!!So HAPPY with this tutorial!!!!!!!!!!!!

  51. Irene says:

    Thank you so much Alan! Your attention to detail and the extra Troubleshooting finally got the ringtone working on my iphone. I’ve tried 2 other advice blogs without success – yours worked! :)

  52. Harsh says:

    awesome!! thanks a ton

  53. Ami says:

    THANKS!!! Besides missing a step by my own error the first time through, it worked for me! I’m only bummed that I haven’t restored all my music from my external drive on to my new laptop.

  54. Debbie says:

    Thank you so very much!!! This was very helpful, step by step and I agree with Ami, besides missing a step by my own error as well, it worked for me! Greatly appreciate all your help and time to make this tutorial for other iPhone users.

  55. Sam says:

    Hi. This is perfect. I follow the direction and no issues. I have the iphone 5 and macbook pro with itunes 11.
    My only question is how to put the ringtone in other area of iphone like text message, alert sounds etc.

  56. Ravi says:

    Finally, I am able to develop my own ringtone with the help of the Tutorial.
    Alan, you are the Hero to receive THANKS.

  57. C says:

    Great tutorial! I’m so glad that I came across this on Pinterest! The other site that I used to use to make ringtones stopped working, so this is an even better alternative! Once again, thank you! ^_^

  58. Jenn says:

    I’m following the directions and cannot get the m4r file into itunes. What is the resolution? I’ve seen this same issue several times in the comments but no response. Thanks a bunch.

    • just me says:

      I thought mine wasn’t there but it was, same song name it just started at the start, stop point I created. I dragged it and added from library.

  59. Jess says:

    Having the same issue as Jenn. I have tried this three times now, reading all the instructions, and all the troubleshooting tips. NONE of them helped. I cannot get my song to go into itunes, nor can i get it to paste when i click “paste” and CLT+V… Hopefully there is a solution to this! Was really looking forward to having some ringtones on my iPhone.

    • just me says:

      Use control C, then Control V. Once you open explorer/safari write down the file it is in, I had a least 5 files to click on to get to my song, but always left the window open.

  60. cristirw says:


  61. J-Dawn says:

    Is this available in an easily printable PDF?

  62. Kate says:

    I cant figure out how to copy the songs and I dont see a 3 forms of the song anywhere. Where are they?

  63. KC says:

    I tried it, but still, no song in the TONES tab. Will it wok in an iPhone 4s?

  64. nalina says:

    thank you soo much .. this was the only tutorial i cud understand!!!

  65. just me says:

    Thank you sooo easy to do.

  66. Kitkat says:

    I’ve used this tutorial when I had my old laptop and it worked perfectly! I now have iTunes 11 and Windows 8 and I’m having troubles getting my ringtones to show up in iTunes. I’ve completed all of the steps and I tried added my ringtone into my tones library, but it never showed up. Any suggestions?!

  67. Jacqueline says:

    Thanks for the instructions. My only problem was that even though I backed up my iPhone first I still got the scary warning and when I ignored it all my music and books were gone. I’m putting them back but it’s a pain. Is there any way to avoid this?

  68. Mandaline says:

    I got stuck on step 12. Everything on the pop up screen is greyed out and I can’t click on anything except the rating. It will only let me change the rating but I can’t click for a start or stop time.

  69. emj says:

    worked for me! thaaaank you!

  70. Marie says:

    very awesome!! thanks so much!!

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