How to Add Custom Ringtones to Your iPhone

The iPhone has been around for a long time, and yet there’s still no easy way to add your own custom ringtones—but it is possible. If you don’t want to buy ringtones or use the ones that came with your iPhone, you can create your own with iTunes.

This process changed a bit with iTunes 12.7. The Tones “Tones” library you could previously sync with your iPhone has been removed, but you can still manually place ringtone files on your phone. Any ringtones you had stored in iTunes are now located at C:\Users\NAME\Music\iTunes\iTunes Media\Tones\ on a PC or ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Tones/ on a Mac.

Step One: Get iTunes

You almost never have to use iTunes with a modern iPhone, but adding your own custom ringtones still requires it.

On a Windows PC, you’ll need to install the latest version of iTunes from Apple. On a Mac, iTunes is already installed and ready to go. This process will work on either a Mac or Windows PC.

Step Two: Choose a Sound File

Of course, you’ll need a sound clip you want to convert and use as a ringtone for this. You probably already have some idea of what you want to use. if not, go ahead and find something you like. You can use absolutely any sound file you find.

Your ringtone file must be a maximum of 40 seconds long. iTunes will refuse to copy ringtones longer than 40 seconds to your phone.

If the file is long and you just want to use one part of it, you can cut it down to just the part you want using an audio editor. You can use any audio editor you like. We like the free and open source Audacity audio editor for audio editing, but it’s more complex than necessary for simple things like this—so we actually recommend a simple  online tool like mp3cut.net. To use this website, click the “Open file” button and browse to the MP3 or other type of sound file you want to edit. It can also extract the sound from video files, if you upload those.

Select the part of the audio file you want to use and click the “Cut” button.

Download the edited clip to your PC. This is the file you’ll need to import into iTunes.

Step Three: Convert the MP3 to AAC

There’s a good chance your sound file is in MP3 format. You’ll need to convert it to AAC format to use it as a ringtone. (If your sound file is already in AAC format or has a .m4r extension, you can skip this part.)

First, add the sound file to iTunes and locate it in your library. You can do this by dragging and dropping the file directly into the iTunes library. Look under Library > Songs for the file afterwards.

Select the sound file in iTunes and click File > Convert > Create AAC Version.

Step Four: Rename Your AAC File

You’ll end up with two copies of the same song file in your iTunes library: The original MP3 version and the new AAC version.

To keep track of which is which, right-click the headings in the library and enable the “Kind” column.

You’ll see a new “Kind” column telling you which file is which. The “MPEG audio file” is the original MP3, while the “AAC audio file” is your new AAC file. You can right-click the MPEG audio file version (that’s the MP3) and remove it from your library, if you like.

You now have your ringtone file as an AAC file. However, you need to change its file extension so iTunes will recognize it as a ringtone file.

First, drag and drop the AAC file from the iTunes library to your Desktop or any other folder on your system.

You’ll get the ringtone file as an AAC file with the .m4a file extension. Change the file extension to .m4r. For example, if the file is named Song.m4a, change it to Song.m4r.

Step Five: Add the Ringtone File to Your Phone

Finally, connect your iPhone to your PC or Mac with its included USB-to-Lightning cable—that’s the same cable you use to charge your iPhone.

Unlock your iPhone and tap the “Trust” option on its screen to confirm you want to trust your computer if you haven’t previously connected your phone to iTunes on that PC or Mac. You’ll be prompted to enter your PIN.

 

In iTunes, click the device icon that appears to the left of “Library” on the navigation bar.

Click the “Tones” section under On My Device in the left sidebar.

Drag and drop the .m4r ringtone file from its folder to the Tones section in iTunes.

iTunes will sync the ringtone to your phone and it will immediately appear under Tones here.

Step Six: Choose the Ringtone

You can now grab your iPhone and head to Settings > Sounds & Haptics > Ringtone, and choose your custom ringtone. Any custom ringtones you’ve added will appear at the top of the list here.

 

To remove ringtones, reconnect your phone to iTunes and head back to the On My Device > Tones section. Right-click a tone and select “Delete from Library” to remove it from your device.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.