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how to create a ringtone for iphoneThe other day I decided that I should have some different ringtones on my iPhone 3G. Notably, I wanted a separate one for my wife, and several other different ones for my business colleagues.

For some reason I had it in my head that making ringtones from the music that I had in my iTunes program was going to be easy. Fail! As it turns out, no matter what Steve Jobs and the rest of that gang over at Apple tells you, it’s not that easy of a task.

Let’s follow along as I show you what I discovered and you will learn how to create an iPhone ringtone out of any audio file on your hard drive.

create ringtones for iphone in itunesTo start with, you CAN use iTunes to make a ringtone for you from existing songs in iTunes. Just right click on the song and select “Create Ringtone”. Fail! If you picked a song that you loaded from somewhere other than the iTunes store, you get the message: “You can create iPhone ringtones only from songs purchased from the iTunes store.”

OK, fair enough, I suppose. Even though I hated the idea of paying for a ringtone from a song that I already owned, I figured I’d do it just so I could have what I wanted. So I went to my “Purchased” Playlist and select a song and right click on it. Pretty soon it starts to process the song, but then I get this message:

“The name of the song” by “the artist” can no longer be made into a ringtone” Fail!

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When COULD it be made into a ringtone? Who knows and at this point I am steamed….

So, I did some research and discovered that the default settings for iTunes imports songs into the library as AAC encoded, which gives the songs an m4a extension. Ringtones have an m4r extension. Hmmm, would changing the extension create a ringtone? As it turns out it does!

So here is how to create ringtones for iPhone in iTunes:

You do want to limit the length of the song to 30 seconds and it turns out that iTunes will do this for you. Pick the song that you want, right click on it and select “Get Info”. Then under the “Options” tab you can select the start time and the stop time in seconds. Be sure to check both boxes. This method is crude in that you can’t preview the selection until after you hit ok and then go listen to the song.  By trial and error you will eventually get the right 30 seconds.

make ringtones in itunes

Then you have to locate where the song is stored on your hard drive so that you can change its extension.  Go back to “Get Info”.  On the “Summary” tab you will find “Where” which gives you the path to the song.  You can also see if it has an m4a extension here as well.

make your own ringtones for iphone

If the song was purchased from iTunes and saved with AAC encoding, then you have to strip the DRM from it first.  There are third party software apps that will do this for you, but it’s just easier to create a new playlist in iTunes, put all the songs that you want to turn into ringtones into that playlist and then use iTunes to burn a CD. Once the CD is burned, import the songs back into iTunes using AAC encoding. You can select how a song is imported from a CD by going to “Edit”, then selecting “Preferences”, then select “Import Settings”, then select “AAC Encoder” under “Import Using”

If you have the songs saved as mp3, follow the same instructions as above.  Put them into a playlist, burn to CD using iTunes, and then import back into iTunes using AAC encoding.

After you have imported the songs back into your iTunes library you are almost done. Double clicking on the newly named file will cause iTunes to load it as a ringtone. If it didn’t already exist, a new folder called Ringtones is established and then the new ringtone is stored there.

Then all you have to do is to sync your iPhone with iTunes being sure to tell iTunes that you want to sync the Ringtones as well.

Now your ringtones are on the iPhone. Select a contact, hit edit and you can choose the ringtone to associate with that contact.

Whew!  Thanks Steve, that was fun!

These instructions work with Windows. Presumably the same concept will work on a Mac, although the exact steps will be different. I know that there are programs that you can buy to do this and that there are websites that will do it for you, but I wanted to do it for free and with what I already had on hand.

How about you? Do you have an easier way? If so, tell us about it!

  1. Moon River
    December 22, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    Cool guide!For Mac users, Share another guide about make iPhone Ringtone from CD:

  2. Get Free iTunes
    October 5, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Thanks goodness Apple removed DRM protection from iTunes, that removes a step from the process. I'd like to add that many people don't have a bluetooth to transfer their ringtones to their phone so they'll to use an app like Data pilot to copy any music files from your hard drive (usually in "My Documents/My Music" on Windows) to your phone.

  3. baby rock
    July 30, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    Sorry. you must change the extension of the *.m4a to *.m4r

  4. baby rock
    July 30, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    You can reate ringstone by another easy way in itune.
    Open library -> right click -> create ACC version -> click play list "recent add" Itune will show you the file you have just created -> right click this file , select "show in window explorer" -> drag drop this file to "Ringstone" on itune -> sync and enjoy

  5. Fab
    November 19, 2008 at 10:11 am

    On the Mac, for iLife 7, in garageband you can edit a mp3 to the appropriate size. Once this is done there is an option to create a ringtone and send it to itunes. Not sure if it works on DRM but defiantely mp3's wrok fine.

  6. Jerry
    November 18, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Hi Jill-

    Thnaks for the heads up! I'll keep it in mind, but as I said, I was steamed at the time and just wanted to get the job done with tools already on my computer...sort of thumbing my nose at Jobs & Apple!

    How can a company that is otherwise so good be so bad at the little thngs like this?

    Best regards,


  7. Jill
    November 18, 2008 at 2:53 pm is much easier, if you don't mind an install. I've used it several times, and it works perfectly.

  8. doug
    November 18, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    check out way easier

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