There’s actually a fairly straightforward way to make your own iPhone ringtones using your own music files (DRM protected music won’t work with this method – all other music will). Apple apparently only wants you to use their built-in method using music purchased from iTunes while barring you from using your own imported mp3s, most likely in an effort to boost paid downloads. However, this simple workaround works like a charm and requires nothing other than iTunes.
First off, this guide worked for the old iPhones and old iTunes versions, and has been tested and confirmed to work with the new iPhone 3G S on the 3.0 firmware, and iTunes version 126.96.36.199. If it worked back then and continues to work, I don’t see any reason why it won’t continue to work in the future, barring some specific update.
Open iTunes and find the song you would like to create a ringtone from. Right click it, and choose “Get Info.” In the box that pops up, navigate to the “Options” tab, check the “Start Time” and “Stop Time” boxes, and fill them in for the segment of your song that you’d like to be a ringtone. Anything between 20 and 30 seconds is usually good – I chose 20 seconds. Click “OK.”
Using the song you chose, right click it again and choose “Create AAC Version.” This will create a new version of that song that is only the segment you defined in the previous step, and it appears in iTunes right under the full-length version.
Note: If you don’t have the “Create AAC Version” option and instead only see “Create MP3 Version” or some other file format, then you need to change a setting in the iTunes preferences. In the “Edit” drop-down menu at the top, choose “Preferences” and click the “Import Settings” button on the “General” tab (by default the first tab you see). In the small popup window, next to “Import Using:” select “AAC Encoder” from the drop-down menu and click “OK.” Now you will have the “Create AAC Version” when you right click your song.
After your new, shorter song is created, it looks like the image below:
Right click the new shorter song and choose “Delete” but when prompted to permanently delete the file from disk, choose “Keep File.” This will remove the song from your iTunes library but keep the actual file stored on your hard drive. By default, the location of the shorter version is in the “My Documents\My Music\iTunes\iTunes Music” folder (oftentimes within an Artist and Album folder as well). Navigate to that file, and change the extension from “.m4a” to “.m4r” to trick iTunes into treating it as a ringtone file.
Note: If you don’t see the file extension at the end of the file name, then you need to enable it. At the top of the folder your file is located in (or by going to My Computer), choose “Tools” at the top and select “Folder Options” from the drop-down menu. On the “View” tab, uncheck the box for “Hide extensions for known file types.” You will now see the file extension after the name of the file itself, and you can freely edit it from m4a to m4r.
Your file will now look like this:
Now that the file is the m4r file type, drag it into iTunes to import it as a ringtone file. Be sure that your iTunes Ringtones folder is currently selected when you drag and drop the file or else it won’t import. You should now see the ringtone file in your iTunes Ringtones folder. If it’s not, then you either changed the file extension to something other than .m4r, or you didn’t drop it into iTunes when you had the Ringtones folder selected.
Since your Ringtones folder doesn’t sync with your iPhone by default, just drag the ringtone from the iTunes Ringtones folder into your iPhone’s Ringtones folder, or turn on syncing for your ringtones by selecting your iPhone in iTunes, going to the Ringtones tab, and checking the “Sync ringtones” box.
Note: Be aware that I’ve experienced a bug twice now out of five tries where turning on sync for ringtones has randomly deleted all the music on my iPhone. I don’t know if it’s isolated to something weird on my end or it’s a legit bug. Do it at your own risk – having to put music back on my iPhone twice now has been a pain.
Just set your iPhone’s ringtone by going to (on the iPhone itself) Settings, Sounds, and then Ringtone, where you select your new ringtone like below:
Don’t forget to go back into iTunes and uncheck the “Start Time” and “Stop Time” boxes in the “Get Info” menu for the song you chose. Hopefully this tutorial covered all the bases and helps you get your own custom ringtones set up! Comment below with any feedback, questions, or technical musings.