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Putting a custom ringtone on your iPhone is easier than you think

The default alarms and ringtones on the iPhone sound nice when you first hear them, but after enough early morning wake-ups, they start to have bad associations. It can escalate to the point where anyone using “Chimes” as their ringtone makes you physically cringe.

Spare yourself and change things up with some custom ringtones. You can buy them on iTunes or you can make your own. Got a newer Mac? Tap or click here to learn how to use Music instead of iTunes.

We’ll tell you how to add ringtones and how to customize them as well, so you’ll cringe less and enjoy your iPhone much more.

Get started

First things first, you need a sound file to convert into a custom ringtone, and access to iTunes on a computer. This sound file can be a song, a recording of you or a loved one’s voice, or even your favorite line from a movie. Tap or click here to learn how to change your ringtone to something more soothing.

You’ll need this sound imported into iTunes to work with it, and you can import by clicking File > Add to Library…, and locating the file on your computer. Anything bought in the iTunes Store will already be in iTunes, so that might simplify things for you a bit.

Next, decide what part of the audio file you want to be the ringtone. We recommend keeping things 30 seconds or less, as you probably won’t be able to appreciate things that are much longer —and text tones should be even shorter than that, 5-10 seconds maximum.

Once you know the sound chunk you like, do the following:

  1. Right click on the sound file in iTunes, and click “Get Info” or “Song Info.”
  2. Click the “Options” tab, and click the “Start” and “Stop” boxes so they’re checked off.
  3. Input the start time for the part of the song or file you want for your ringtone, and the end time in the text boxes next to the check marks. Using decimal places here can help you be really precise (i.e. 0:30.5 for something that starts between 30 and 31 seconds).
  4. Click “OK.”

Change your file types

You’re now going to change the file type of your sound file a few times to make it into a ringtone. The first one is to change whatever your sound file is to AAC, but to do that, you’ll need to check your iTunes preferences.

To check your preferences:

  • In iTunes 12.4 or later, click Edit, then Preferences.
  • In earlier versions, click iTunes, then Preferences in the top left corner of the window.
  • Under the “General” tab, click “Import Settings…
  • Make sure “Import Using” is set to “AAC Encoder.”

Now we’ll actually convert the file. To go to AAC:

  • In iTunes 12.4 or later, click on the file you’re converting, and then click File > Convert. In earlier versions, right click on the sound file again.
  • Click “Create ACC version.”

A new file will appear that’s the length you selected. We’re now going to convert this file into a new format — but first: go back to “Get Info” or “Song Info” to unselect the start and stop times in your original file. If you don’t do this, the next time you go to listen to it, you’ll only hear that small section of the file!

The new format is .m4r. To convert to .m4r:

  • Right click on the file, and select “Show in Finder” or “Show in Windows Explorer,” depending on whether you’re using a Mac or PC.
  • Right click on the file in the Explorer or Finder window, and select “Rename.”
  • Change the file extension to .m4r. When asked if you want to change the file type, click “Yes.”

If your Windows computer hides extensions from you, you might end up renaming the file incorrectly, and the next steps won’t work. In Windows 8 and 10, make sure the option “File name extensions” is checked off in your Explorer window, and you’ll avoid this problem.

In Windows 7, click “Organize” in the top left of the Explorer window, and select “Folder and search options” from the menu there. Make sure “Hide file extensions for known file types” is unchecked.

Put it on your iPhone

With the .m4r file made, you’ve got your custom ringtone! You just have to get it onto your iPhone now.

To get your custom ringtone onto your iPhone:

  1. Keep your Explorer or Finder window open from the conversion. If you closed it, open it back up using the steps above.
  2. Plug your iPhone into your computer with a USB cable, and wait for it to appear in iTunes.
  3. Once it’s there, click the arrow next to your iPhone’s name, so you can see the different categories. Click on “Tones,” or just make sure you can access it.
  4. Click and drag the custom file you made from the Finder or Explorer window you have open into the “Tones” area, or into the “Tones” menu under your iPhone’s name.
  5.  Let the file upload to your iPhone. Once the load is done, it’s there forever!

Once you know how to set your ringtone, alarm or text tone to your custom sound, you’ll be all set. So to set your custom ringtone as your ringtone or text tone:

  • Go to Settings on your iPhone, then tap Sounds.
  • Tap Ringtone or Text Tone, whichever one you want your custom sound to be for.
  • Select your custom ringtone from the Ringtones listed.

To set a custom ringtone as your alarm:

  • Open Clock, and either add a new alarm with the “+” button, or tap “Edit” in the top left corner of the screen, and select a pre-made alarm you want to adjust.
  • Tap “Sound” on the window that pops up, and scroll down to the Ringtones list. Note you can add whole songs from your iTunes/Apple Music library as your alarm as well by selecting “Pick a song” in the Songs list.
  • To set a custom ringtone, select it from the Ringtones list. Click “Back” in the top left corner, then “Save” in the top right.

And there you have it — you’ve got a custom ringtone added to your iPhone! Create as many as you want, and change them up often to keep yourself from getting bored. They’re also just fun to play with, so have a great time with your custom ringtones, and let them play proudly for everyone to hear.

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