iOS 5: How to Create Custom Ringtones and Alerts For the iPhone

If you aren’t satisfied with the default ringtones that came with the iPhone 4S, you can add to your collection. This guide will help you create your own iPhone ringtones and alerts for free.

Apple makes it easy to buy a collection of ringtones and alerts, but if you prefer to make your own ringers and text alerts from movie clips and music, you can do so pretty easily.

We’ll assume you have iTunes 10.5 and iOS 5 installed on your computer and on your iPhone. These new ringers can be set to alert you to new calls, texts and other iPhone sounds.

How To Create Custom Ringtones and Alerts for the iPhone

Find the song or audio clip you want to use. This needs to be a DRM free file. You can use DRM free songs you purchase on iTunes, movie clips you find online and even those you create with your voice.

1. Open up iTunes

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2. Find your Song, in this example “santascoming”

3. Right click on it and click on Get Info

How to make an iPhone ringtone
Click on Get Info to start making a iPhone Alert Tone

4, Click on Options

5. Set the time of your clip. The clip can be no longer than 30 seconds.

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Create iPhone Alert Options
Choose the length of your iPhone Ringtone

6. Click OK

7. Right click on your song and choose Create ACC version. This makes a shortened version of the clip.

How to make an iPhone ringer - aac
Convert your shortened clip to AAC

8. Right click on the new ACC file and choose Show in Finder or Show in Windows Explorer.

Rename your iPhone ringtone
Rename your iPhone ringtone to .m4r.

9. Copy the file to your Desktop

10. Rename the file, changing the file extension to .m4r

Change the file type to .m4r
Change the file type so iTunes knows this is a ringtone.

11.When prompted, click Use .m4r

12. Remove your converted ACC file from iTunes. (Right Click -> Delete)

13. Double click on the new .m4r file and iTunes will add it as a ringtone.

iTunes Ringtone menu
Once you have a Ringtone, iTunes will add this menu.

14. Sync your iPhone with iTunes and make sure you are syncing Ringtones in your iPhone Sync settings.

15. Assign the ringtone or alert in the Settings -> Sounds section of your iPhone.

iPhone Custom Ringtone
How to choose your new iPhone ringtone.

Enjoy your new alerts. Make sure you keep your text alerts short and sweet, otherwise you’ll find yourself back at it in a few days. Even the 9 second clip I created is long for a text alert.

If you are on a Mac, you can also create free iPhone ringtones and alerts in Garageband.

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Josh Smith is Editor of GottaBeMobile and Notebooks.com. He's always looking for ways to help you get the most of your gear and loves to talk about tech on radio and TV. Josh uses an iOS and Android devices as well as Mac and Windows Computers. Josh Smith on Google+ Email: [email protected]

120 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve done the above, as I have been doing for year with the previous versions of itunes. For some reason when I double click on the m4r file it doesnt go in to my ringtones folder and I cant seem to add it in there either :(

  2. I’m having the same problem as Daaneyal. Specifically, iTunes will only add the m4r as a SONG, even though it says “Ringtone” next to “Kind” in the Summary. Since upgrading to the latest iTunes, creating custom ringtones has been impossible.

  3. Hi, I have followed all the instructions, managed to sort of get there but its not coming up in my settings on the phone. When i plug the phone into itunes it registers that i have a ringtone but its not in settings??? iphone 4s.

    • click at your iphone at the iTunes, then select ringtones tab so there you can select your desired ringtone

    • For anyone not seeing the ringtones on their iPhone after converting: don’t use spaces in the ringtones name.  It will appear correctly then.  Good luck.

      • Thanks for your reply. I was scratching my head all the long what’s going wrong. Once I removed the space, it appeared on iPhone4 with iOS 5.

      • i spent full two night just due to the space in ringtone name, finally i got ur valuable tip. Thank u so much

    •  Ringtones or “Tones” as it appears in the Sync page, did not appear for me until I got some ringtones added to the itunes.

  4. ISSUE: I followed all of these steps and I am still not hearing the custom tone when I receive messages. When I get to your step15 (Settings>Sounds>Text Tone) I see 2 categories of tones on my phone: alert tones and ringtones (it’s my understanding that both ringtones and alert tones have the same extension (.m4r)). My custom alert tones that I created following your steps DO APPEAR, but under ringtones. If I select a custom tone I created from within “Settings,” under the ringtones category, I can hear it play and see a check mark by it. But then whenever I receive texts I still only hear the tri-tone alert (even though there is not a check mark next to tri-tone). Note: all of the custom tones I created (8 tones in total) are between 3 and 10 seconds long, and the issue is the same if I were to check any one of them.

    What is going on and how can this be fixed so I can hear these custom tone when I actually receive texts? Thank you

    Spec notes: This is an iPhone 3gs and I just updated to iOS-5. Also, my longer custom RINGTONES are about 30 seconds long and those work fine when I receive incoming calls, I have just not been able to hear the custom text alerts.

    • You need to go to Sound-> Text Tone and select your custom text tone under Ringtones and that should do it. It’s a bit confusing that you should set your tone under Ringtones for your Alerts.

  5. Hey, I have tried to make my custom ringtones for my new iphone4s and I get up to number 10 where I rename with a .m4r after that it is shot to hell nothing, It does not ask me if I want to convert or anything, what am I doing wrong?  s.m.

  6. I have the same problem as Gelly, I’ve had this problem for some time now, I get to the settings>sounds part an the tone isn’t there. Am I doing something wrong?

    • i have the same problem.. my custom ringtones work fine under the ringtone category.. but when i get to the text tone part.. i can’t see any of my customed tones..

  7. I don’t get the Create AAC Version option from iTunes after I make the clip.  Running Windows iTunes v. 10.5.1.4.2.

    • I had the same problem. I was getting “Create MP3″. Go to your preferences > general > “import settings” next ti When I import a CD > change “MP3 encoder” to “ACC encoder” and now you’ll get Create ACC version. Hope this helps!

  8. THANK you so much!  I was having trouble with a couple of my ringtone/alert tones – this fixed it right up!

  9. The ringtones work fine but the custom text tones do not work.  I read something that says apple doesn’t allow you to customize alerts, only ringtones.  That would make sense with what is happening for everyone trying to customize their alert tones

  10. I have done everything correctly but i don’t see the “Ringtone” icon on iTunes. I just see “Tones”

    • I have the same problem i can’t seem to get the ringtone onto my phone, it wont sync, is there something that i’m not doing correctly, maybe change the setting of the ringtones on the fone because it does not give me the option on itunes

  11. I have the same issue as Jefferson5436.  I can set these ringtones as text tones, but do not hear them unless I’m currently using the messages app. It doesn’t give me any sound at all.   If I set a normal text tone, it plays fine when the screen is off, if I’m in the homescreen, or if I’m using another app.  Is there maybe another filename we can change it to besides m4r. ?

  12. I have the same problem. I have successfully created the ringtone, with less than 30 secs. But it won’t sync to the iPhone. I use 3Gs, btw. Please help.
    I have no problem when I was still using iOS 4.3.5.
    Thanks in advance.

  13. I followed your instructions and everything worked perfectly. However it seems that the quality of the tone has been sharply degraded compared to the original mp3 file. Is there any way to retain some quality? I found that the bass is severely lacking and the overall sound is “tinny”.

    Thanks

    •  I’m assuming you got your question answered by now, but if not… just highlight the file and drag it to your desktop.  what is better, so you don’t clutter your desktop, is create a folder, then drag it into there. 

  14. i have added the ringtone in itunes but when i try to get the ringtone into ringtone sounds on the phone i cannot.  when i click on iphone when in itunes there are no tabs as you say that say tone or ringtone anywere.  where is the tab to sync the ringtone?  i have the ringtone on my phone  but not in ringtone sounds?

  15. Hi! I just tried making ringtones using this tut. Worked like a charm. 10 minutes. Literally. And I’m no gearhead. Thanks for sharing your expertise. I shared your tut on Facebook.

  16. Please help!
    I am using iPhone 3gs and windows 7!
    In iTunes there is no ‘Ringtone tab anywhere.. please temme how to do it..

  17. Well I finallly did all this, but when I played the song, iTunes didnt reallly create a tab named ringtones!
    Help! :(

  18. i do not believe it is possible to do this for sms alerts, very easy and straightforward for ringtones, but they do not show on the iphone 4s in text alerts, you can you the one`s apple `gives` you but they are crap. I have been trying for 3 days now. Am thinking it is impossible, have seen it work on i phone 4. but not 4s. :-) if anyone out there finds a way please us know.

    •  I have the 4S and it worked for both.  trick: don’t just scroll down, scroll UP… that’s where I found mine…

  19. I can’t seem to get it to change to m4r…the name changes, but not the actual extention.  Therefore, I’m unable to delete the original file.  Help!

  20. To those of you struggling like me; after you have imported the m4r-file into Tones in iTunes, right-click the tone and choose Show info. Click the Text-tab and write a name of the ringtone. If this field is empty the tone is not going to sync.

    • This is what it worked for me! I have followed all the steps and the iTune showed that the sync was done but I was not able to find my ringtones anywhere. I changed their name in the Tones tab and it worked. Thanks and good luck to the rest of you :-)

    • Hi,

      I do not have a “Tones” tab on Itunes on my PC. I have converted the file to an .m4r. How do I create a Tones tab on Itunes?

      Please help.

  21. I followed every step and the file gets added in the “Tones” folder and I don’t see a “Ringtones” folder anywhere in itunes, and when I sync up with iphone it doesn’t add up to phone.. can you please help me out with that…

  22. Tones folder is the Ringtones folder. Probably just a little different on every itunes version. But if you don’t find your newly created ringtones/ alert tones on your iphone, I suggest you adjust the time. Refer to Step 5 again, it should not be longer than 30s. When I adjusted the time, it worked just fine on my iPhone 4s. For text tone, not longer than 3s, i guess.

  23. got it to work with both ringtones and texts.  the hiccups were converting the file extensions rather than just renaming the files and syncing the ring tones themselves to the phone through the TONE tab.

    question though.  when i play my regular songs that i turned into ringtones…the 30 second ringtone conversion supersedes the song so it only plays the segmented clip.  anyone know how to get past this?

    • When you’re in the GET INFO/OPTIONS window setting your time, there is a selection below the time entry boxes that says “Skip when shuffling”

  24. excellent, except double click on .m4r file didn’t automatically do anything, so I drag/dropped the file over LIBRARY on left and it loaded it as ringtone. Then i clicked lower down the list under DEVICES to see it’s listed there too. Then sync phone by clicking on Myname iPhone just below DEVICES, look up at the top of the window to make sure TONES is selected, then choose ALL or SELECTED per your preference. (by the way, on my version it doesn’t list the word RINGTONES, just a bell icon next to TONES in the left nav for both LIBRARY and DEVICES/Myname’s iPhone)

  25. I had the same problem as a lot of people, when I double clicked on the .m4r file nothing happened. I tried to drag it into iTunes and still nothing… What worked for me was after changing the copy of the file to .m4r, delete the AAC version in iTunes (as instructed). Then before double clicking on the .m4r file, close iTunes down. Then double click on the .m4r file and you should see the file in the “Tones” portion of the library. It worked for me, hope that helps

  26. I appreciate your easy step by step instructions. I’m usually pretty good with following directions, but for some reason my iphone 4s won’t allow me to sync my ringtones and when I keep trying I get a message saying the song doesn’t exist. What on earth am I doing wrong??? Please, anyone that may be able to assist me with an easy way of getting my ringtones. Tx!

  27. I have followed all of the instructions and my ringtone appears in my call ringtones, but not my text ringtones. How can I fix this?

  28. Im running widows 7 im having a problem with changing the file format through renaming how would i fix this

  29. Hi, I followed the steps and everything seemed to work out fine. I assigned one of my new tones to my “text tones” and it everything worked well for about 24 hours. Now when I receive a text the screen lights up but no sound. So I experimented and assigned another custom tone to my text messages and when I receive a text it works. The tone that does not work plays sounds when selected and it even plays when I set the tone to alert me for emails and other alerts. Just not text. I deleted it, did the entire process again and nothing changed. Thinking that the song is corrupt I made a tone using a random piece of the song and it actually worked. Now I am just plain confused. Please help, thank you. 

    • Make sure the file name of your ringtone isn’t overly long. I created a custom one that initially didn’t appear after syncing even though I saw the Ringtone playlist added in iTunes. Saw someone mention you can’t have spaces in the file name, and though perhaps it goes the same with the number of characters you use. After shortening the name and re-syncing I now see the ringtone. Btw mine isn’t jailbroken.

  30. It is showing all of my custom ringtones in my ringtones folder but only shows a few of them in my settings that i can use for alerts?????

  31. Reminder folks, this process works just fine. If you don’t see the tone you created after syncing check if you either have spaces in the name of the tone you created, or if there are too many characters (long file name). Try shortening it to approx no more than 10 characters, though I’m unsure what the limit is but apparently there is one of some sort. Hope this helps.

  32. Trying to convert track and won’t save shortened version.  No + next to price on iTunes.  This method has always been ok with other tracks.  What is going wrong?

  33. I was able to sync the .m4r file but it does not show up under the “sounds’ settings. What am I doing wrong.

  34. no aac file in itunes 10.6
    can’t import files ios 5.1.1
    can’t get this stupid iphone to do anything usefull.
    My nokia was loads better as I didn’t ‘need’ an ‘app’ to do just about anything.

  35. i was having the same issue as alot of you. i could see the file itunes and sync it to my phone but it was not showing up under settings.

    Redo the file to 30 seconds or less.

    worked like a charm.

  36. Good day, Am having problem with; 5. Set the time of your clip. The clip can be no longer than 30 seconds.

    I tried to tick the box but it won’t click, in fact nothing is clicking on the option, kindly let me know what to do?

  37. Here is one I have not seen…. I got a custom ringtone, and in “sound” I can assign it as my default text tone, but it does not allow me to use it as a custom tone.

  38. […] You are also able to create custom ringtones using your music library in iTunes. This way, you won’t have to pay money for the cost of a new ringtone for your iPhone 5. If that’s what you wish to do, check out our How to Create Custom Ringtones and Alerts For the iPhone. […]

  39. Thank you so much for these instructions!! I was going crazy trying to work this out for my hubby. These instructions work perfectly for the iPhone 5.

    Thanks again!

  40. Using your instructions, I created the ringtone I wanted, so thank you so much, BUT I can’t get my iPhone4 to sync in iTunes. It only shows up as a device in iPhoto. Do I need tech help or is there an easy fix that I’m missing?

  41. Have just got iPhone 5…first time iPhone user…and can’t believe how STUPID and ANTIQUATED Apple design is with regard to being able to use your own ringtones and text alert tones!
    On my old Blackberry phones, you simply downloaded your music, clicked on the tone and selected ‘Set as Ringtone’ or Set as Text Alert Tone’.
    APPLE YOU ARE A BUNCH OF PRATS to make this so impossible and frustrating for your users, whats your problem.
    Long winded process to create your own ringtone (which I have managed to do, but the time it took was ridiculously slow and unbelievable compared to your competitors), and as to NOT being able to create my own Text Alert Tones, really angry and not impressed. Your own alert tones are CRAP! Do not suit me at all, and I’m totally hacked off that I’m stuck with your stupid system!
    If I’d known this before I would probably NOT have got an iphone!!!!!!
    Thought it was the most high tech phone there was….its YEARS BEHIND the rest when it comes to this subject!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  42. Much easyer way, 4 very easy steps (:

    1) download DVDVideoFreeStudio from http://www.freestudio.com and install it
    2) choose MP3 & Audio option, Free Audio Converter
    3) put in any file what do you want and choose m4r out extension and convert it
    4) put that file in iTunes Tone and from that in your iPhone tones or do it directly to your iPhone tones
    and VOILA ((:

    Greetings from Montenegro

  43. Thanks a lot for the steps! :)

    I got stuck, because I could select the custom alert to be my new alert sound and I could hear it play when I clicked it, but if someone actually texted me I’d hear no sound.

    I restarted the phone and it solved the problem.
    Made me want to kick myself in the head.

    iPhone 4 w/ iOS 6.1

  44. Thank You for your explicit instructions,which I have followed to the letter.The file is now showing in Itunes list of music files,[ duration 10 seconds] but on transferring,Itunes said the Tone was not transferred because it was “too Long”. Any suggestions,the tone is not showing in “Sounds”.I’m not in tears,but i am intrigued…

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