How To Create Free Ringtones And Alert Tones For Your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch

Free Ringtones

Last week, along with the launch of iOS 5 and iCloud, Apple also launched the Tune Store, where you can buy ringtones for $1.29 and alert tones for $0.99.

The goods news is that the simple ringtone hack that was discovered almost four years back still works with the latest version of iTunes, so if you’ve already purchased the song, you can make a ringtone and an alert tone from it for free. 

The hack is based on the fact that iTunes differentiates a song file and a ringtone by the file extension. While we all know that the song file extension was AAC; the file extension for ringtones is “M4R”. All you need to do is take an m4a file, which is DRM free and not more than 30 seconds, rename it to m4r and add it to iTunes.

You can check out this step by step guide to create free custom ringtones for your iPhone using iTunes:

  1. In iTunes, right click on the song from which you want to create a ringtone or alert tone and select “Get Info.”
  2. Go to the options tab and go down to the “Start Time” and “Stop Time” check boxes. Check both boxes and input the time you want your ringtone to start/stop (it should not be more than 30 seconds for Ringtones and ideally 1-3 seconds for Alert tones). Click OK when you’re done.
  3. Right click on your newly “clipped” song and select “Create AAC Version” The song will be re-encoded using the start and stop times determined (If your menu item does not read “Convert Selection to AAC” and reads “Convert Selection to MP3″ (or some other format) please go to iTunes > Preferences > Advanced > Importing and change the “Import Using” drop down menu to “AAC Encoder”).
  4. After the song is done encoding navigate to your iTunes Music folder, locate your song (for Mac users – right click on the clipped song in iTunes and click on Show in Finder), and drag it to your desktop. After the song is on your desktop go back to iTunes and delete the clipped version from you iTunes library (It won’t delete it from your desktop, it will only remove it from iTunes).
  5. Go back the song on your desktop and right click on your song and choose “Get info.” Go to the name and extension section and change the extension from .m4a to .m4r (or you can just change the extension right from your desktop)
  6. After the extension is changed simply double click on the file to add it to your iTunes library. It should show up under the ringtones section. Then sync your iPhone.
  7. You should now be able to change the ringtone to the new one by going to Settings –> Sounds –> Ringtone or use it also as a Alert tone for a New Mail or as the Text Tone by going to Settings -> New Mail -> Ringtone. The new ringtone should show up under “Ringtones”. Tap on it to set it as your default ringtone or alert tone for a specific notification.

Please let us know how it goes in the comments section below.

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  • Kwopau

    Awesome, I can’t wait to try this:D

  • Macca

    Ive been doing this for ages. you can also change the file extension to .m4b to create an audiobook

    • amen

      thats great ! thnx info

  • wbruno

    I did that on an iPhone 4s recently and I can’t share the ringtone with the phone… Help please!!!

  • Grizzle

    See this why JB is still great because Anyring will let you use ANY music in your iPod for ringtones just other phones. I mean I thought buying ringtones was a thing of the past now. I guess Apple is still in the past but killing it with futuristic products lol

  • fas

    Apple should let iTunes music be used as ringtones.

    • Ol Shep

      They do

      • sbojevets

        F— Apple

  • Is this only for iOS 5? I’ve been creating ringtones for years, but alert tones are always the same few options.

  • Breezy

    Download RMaker from the app store and you can create ringtones on the iPhone from any song in your library… There is a paid and free version. I use the free version and it works great!

  • Luis Hernandez

    Cool but there is another way thats pretty easy using Iringer. Its awesome and very easy to use! 😉

  • Randall

    When I get it to my desktop and right click the song I don’t have the option “get info”

    • Melanie

      right click, send to…, mail recipient. Click File tab, save attachments, and change the name before you save it.

  • Teaike

    Well I’ve been making custom tones from my own songs using GarageBand and using Now I can just use the same ones or make new ones for alerts

  • Christine


    it doesn’t give me the option to change the file extension from my desktop. i dont have a “get info” option when I right click the file on the desktop, only a properties section which does not seem to have the right stuff.

    please help

    • Christine

      nvm I figured out a work around! opened the file in My Computer>Tools>Folder Options>view tab>uncheck “Hide extensions for known file types”

      then just right click the file>select rename>change the ext!

      • Sunshine

        Thanks!! These directions helped me greatly. My problem now is getting my iphone4 to recognize the Tone & using it. Maybe I need crash course in the iphone4.

  • nice article i hope its work

  • Shelly

    I can get as far as creating the file & sending to desktop, but when I right-click the song, there is no option to “get info” and therefore I cannot change the format. Any help?

    • jamie

      Read more thoroughly, it states right click the song in itunes for the “get info option”. and this is to change the length of the track ie; start and stop times. press ok when finished then right click>create aac version. then right click> show in explorer(windows), it should be in the itunes folder. move it to desktop and change file extension from m4a to m4r. No you cannot right click get info from your desktop, you just right click>rename if using windows. if your file does not already have the m4r extension, then they have been hidden by default. For vista, open a window in windows explorer, select tools on the menu bar, select folder options, scroll down and uncheck “hide extensions for known file types” or if using vista open start menu> go to “run” and paste this command C:\Windows\System32\rundll32.exe shell32.dll,Options_RunDLL 7

  • Bill

    Ringtones can be as long as 40 seconds, although that’s not really feasible since the longest time your phone can be set to ring is 30 seconds. I believe Alerts are only recognized when they’re less than 5 seconds, but I haven’t tested it thoroughly yet, so I’m not sure exactly how long they can be. Anyone who needs an alert tone that’s longer than 5 seconds has bigger problems anyway

  • Justin

    Is there a way to make it realize if you make an alert tone and list it under that instead of a ring tone?

  • Karla

    The extension is changed when I double click on it I get Open this file. I have no way of adding it to my iTunes library.

  • cestdiva


    While I’ve done this many times in the past (I currently have 36 custom ringtones), I was using a PC. I’ve now switched to Mac (yay!), but it isn’t working. I get as far as double-clicking to add to the library, but after I sync the new ringtones still aren’t there. 🙁
    Any ideas?

    Karla, Shelly and Christine – you are using a PC, yes?
    If so, right-click the file and choose “Rename” from the list. Change the .m4a extension to .m4r and you should be in business!
    Instead of double-clicking to play, right-click and select “Open With,” then choose iTunes.
    Good luck! 🙂

    • cestdiva

      Okay, I found the key: the files have to be in the iTunes folder when you double-click them. Ha!

  • Ina Wang

    But that’s only for ringtones, what about for alert tones?