Creating Ringtones for the iPhone

Posted by Chalky on Apr 12, 2009 in Technology

I mainly made this post for myself more than anything so that I can remember how to do it myself. However, I thought it might also be useful to others!

The process only uses iTunes and the File Manager (Finder on a Mac and Windows Explorer on a PC) and therefore does not require the purchase or download of additional software.

I did the process on my iMac running Mac OS X Leopard and iTunes 8.1 (Build 50), however the process would be the same on Windows, however, you need to make sure that Windows is displaying File Extensions in order to be able to do it. To do this, open a Windows Explorer window and go to Tools -> Folder Options:

Windows Explorer Tools Menu

Then, go to the View tab and make sure Hide extensions for known file types is not ticked.

File Options View Menu

Here are the steps for making your own tracks into Ringtones for the iPhone:

1. Go to iTunes -> Preferences:

Step 1

2. In the General tab, click on Import Settings:

Step 2

3. In the Import Settings window, select AAC Encoder on the Import Using drop-down. You can choose any Setting for the Ringtones, I have used iTunes Plus without any problems. I chose this option because this is the setting I use for importing CDs:

Step 3

4. Go to the song you wish to make into a Ringtone and right-click on it and select Get Info. Note where the file is located in the Where field and open a Finder (Windows Explorer in Windows) window to that location:

Step 4

Click on the Options tab.

5. The most important step! The iPhone only supports Ringtones up to 30 seconds in length. If you make the Ringtone longer than this, it will show up in the Ringtones folder of iTunes but will not sync to your iPhone. 

Tick both the Start Time and End Time options and then enter where you would like the track to start (your favourite part of the track, or knock the beginning silence off) and then add 30 second for the End Time:

Step 5

Click OK

6. Right-click on the song and select Create AAC Version:

Step 6

7. Wait for the Track to be converted. A message is shown under Playlists during the conversion:

Step 7

iTunes will show the progress of the conversion in the Status Window:

Step 8

8. Go to the Finder (Windows Explorer) window you opened earlier and you will see an additional .m4a file:

Step 9

If your source file was already an AAC (m4a) file, it will most likely have a (1) next to it, it will also be the smaller of the two files. Copy and Paste this file to a location outside of your Music Library, for example, your Desktop

9. Go back to iTunes and delete the extra file that has been created, you will be able to tell which one it is by the Time field:

Step 10

Click Remove

10. On the next dialog, make sure you select Delete File/Move to Trash/Move to Recycle Bin (depending on your Operating System and location of Music Library) and not Keep File:

Step 11

11. Go back to the file your Copy and Paste’d earlier. Press Enter (on OS X) or F2 (on Windows) to rename the file. Move your cursor to the end of the File Name and delete the a from m4a and replace it with an r to make the file an m4r file. This is the File Extension iTunes uses for iPhone Ringtones:

Step 12

12. The Finder will warn you that you are about to change the File Extension of the file from .m4a to .m4r. Select Use .m4r:

Step 13

A similar message will be displayed in Windows:


13. Double-click on the the new .m4r file. This will Import the file into your iTunes Music Library and will be displayed in the Ringtones section of the Library:

Step 14

You can now sync the track over to your iPhone in the Ringtones tab:

Step 15