iPhone and iPad Mac

How to Create or Import Free iPhone Ringtones with iTunes

Tim Brookes 23-03-2017

The iPhone has come a long way since it first made an appearance in 2007. Unfortunately, the process involved in importing and using your own custom ringtones and alerts has not.


This might be the reason you always seem to hear the same old iPhone tones, as there are quite a few steps involved in making it work. Apple still sells ringtones via the iTunes store How to Use Your Apple or iTunes Gift Card Have an Apple or App Store or iTunes gift card? Here's what you can buy, how to redeem them, and suggestions on what to pick up. Read More , so we thought we’d remind you that there’s still a free way to add your own alerts to your iPhone.

There are also a few other tones and alerts you can customize for a more personal device.

1. Prepare Your Song or Alert

It should go without saying that you’ll need to choose a song or alert that you want to import, whether it’s the theme tune to M.A.S.H. or the second-long “you’ve been spotted!” noise from Metal Gear Solid. This is your source material, and it might come from an MP3 you downloaded, or a song that’s already in your iTunes library.

For ringtones you’ll want to trim your song down to around 30-seconds, something you can accomplish with iTunes or any other audio editor. You can use any one of the methods below.

Using iTunes

This will only work with music you have imported directly (from your own files), or music you have purchased from Apple (DRM-free) that’s tied to your Apple ID. If you’re using Apple Music, you won’t be able to grab just any song and use it as a ringtone.


Find the song you would like to use in iTunes (import it if you haven’t already), right-click on it and select Get Info. Navigate to the Options tab where you’ll see Start and Stop cues. You can use these to create a shorter version of your song by choosing when you want playback to start and stop. Once you’ve selected a range, hit OK.

How to Create or Import Free iPhone Ringtones with iTunes start stop cues

Now with the song you’ve just edited selected, head to File > Convert and choose Create AAC Version. A duplicate song that’s shorter than the original should appear. Click and drag it to your desktop for safe keeping, then delete it from your iTunes library. You should also go back to the original song and remove your Start and Stop cues.

Using QuickTime Player

QuickTime Player on the Mac is a powerful tool with some nifty hidden features 7 Handy Tasks QuickTime Player Performs for Free You've probably changed the file association so QuickTime never gets used, so you've probably overlooked its bounty of useful features. Read More . Simply open any audio file you’ve downloaded in QuickTime, head to Edit > Trim and drag the sliders till you’re happy with your selection. When you’re ready head to File > Export > Audio Only and save your file to the desktop.


How to Create or Import Free iPhone Ringtones with iTunes quicktime trim

The file will be in AAC format, which is just what you need.

Using Another Audio Editor

Other audio editors will provide you with much more control over your audio file. You can manipulate audio on a timeline, add effects, boost volume levels, or create something entirely unique. Check out our favorite Mac audio editors The 9 Best Free and Cheap Audio Editors for Mac Here are our picks for the best free and cheap audio editors for Mac, from simple apps to professional tools. Read More to find something that fits your budget.

The key is to export to AAC format. In case your chosen audio editor can’t do this, you’ll have to use iTunes instead:

  1. Save your audio to .WAV (uncompressed) format.
  2. Import your file to iTunes using File > Add to Library.
  3. Find the file you just imported, select it, then head to File > Convert > Create AAC Version.
  4. Drag the new AAC file to your desktop, then delete both the original and AAC duplicate from your iTunes library.

How to Create or Import Free iPhone Ringtones with iTunes create aac itunes

2. Change File Extension & Import

Now that you’ve got your audio trimmed down to size and in AAC format, it’s time to trick iTunes into labelling it as a ringtone. Rename the file (right click, or hit enter on a Mac) and change the file extension to .M4R.

How to Create or Import Free iPhone Ringtones with iTunes rename to m4r

On a Mac you may only need to add the file extension, and you’ll be prompted when you’ve done it correctly. If you’re using Windows and you can’t see the file extension, you’ll need to tweak a setting. To do this visit Start > Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > File Explorer Options > View then uncheck Hide extensions for known file types and hit Apply.


You should now be able to see file extensions, and more importantly change your that .M4A or .AAC to .M4R. All that’s left to do is import your .M4R file into iTunes. You can either click and drag it into the main iTunes window, or select File > Add to Library from the menu bar.

3. Sync Your iPhone

Your new ringtone won’t appear in your main Music library, instead you’ll need to select Tones from the drop-down media menu to see it. Once you’ve found it, plug your iPhone in and click on it from the devices list (see the screenshot below).

How to Create or Import Free iPhone Ringtones with iTunes device menu

Navigate to Tones under the “Settings” header and make sure Sync Tones is checked. Finally, click Sync to complete the process and wait for everything to transfer. Once complete pick up your iPhone and head to Settings > Sounds & Haptics (or Sounds & Vibration on older devices) and select your tone under the Ringtones option.

How to Create or Import Free iPhone Ringtones with iTunes sync iphone

You can also set these ringtones as any other alert tone including text tones, new mail alerts, reminders and so on.

Other Sounds You Can Customize

Your new ringtone can be used as a system-wide alert for all contacts, or you can apply specific tones to certain contacts. To do this head to Phone > Contacts and find the contact you want to assign a ringtone to. Hit Edit and scroll down till you see Ringtone. You can also apply a custom Text Tone here too.

Apple’s in-built Clock application can also be customized to sound different alerts. The Timer function is basic but can use stock sounds and any ringtones you have purchased on manually synced via iTunes. The Alarm feature can use a different tone for each alarm set, including stock tones, synced tones, and any music you have synced to your device.

And yes, that includes DRM-protected Apple Music songs 10 Essential Apple Music Tips You Really Need to Know Since its launch in 2015, Apple Music has come a long way, baby. Unfortunately, it's still not the easiest or most intuitive service to get to grips with. Which is where we come in... Read More . Simply scroll to the top of the list when specifying an alarm tone and tap Pick a song.

You Can Still Buy Tones

A much easier way of getting ringtones onto your device is by buying them through iTunes. This seems to be the main reason Apple hasn’t made adding your own tones easier, with less hoops to jump through. It also means that people are still buying ringtones for a few dollars a pop.

How to Create or Import Free iPhone Ringtones with iTunes itunes tones

Whether you want to put the effort into converting, importing, and syncing is up to you. You can buy two seconds of Chewbacca roaring for $0.99, or you can find the sound yourself on the internet and do it for free. Check out our collection of video game ringtones The Best Free Video Game Ringtones (And How to Add Them to Your Phone) Here's how to make your phone geeky with retro video game ringtones and notification sounds from Mario, Sonic, Pokémon, and more. Read More  for more ideas.

What’s your current ringtone? Feel free to post any questions relating to problems you had using the methods outlined above and we’ll try our best to help.

Related topics: iPhone, iTunes, Ringtones.

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

    Cool guide!For Mac users, Share another guide about make iPhone Ringtone from CD:
    [Broken Link Removed]

  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. doug
    November 18, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    check out audiko.net/ way easier