How to make a ringtone for your iPhone using iTunes without checking Sync Tones

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Here is how to make a ringtone for your iPhone using iTunes and then move it to your iPhone for free without checking Sync Tones because you want to manually manage music and videos on your iPhone and you don't want to Sync Music with your entire iTunes Library. These instructions are for iTunes 12. There may be slight differences in other versions of iTunes but the concept is the same.

Step 1 - Create a Ringtone

  1. Drag the mp3 music file that you want to use as a ringtone into iTunes if you have not already done so.
  2. Right click on the mp3 file and click on Get Info. You may need to use CTRL+Click for right click if you are using iTunes on a Mac.
  3. Click on Options. A ringtone can only be up to 40 seconds long, so choose a start and stop time that is less than 40 seconds and click OK. Then right click or CTRL+click on the mp3 music file and click on Create AAC Version. In some versions of iTunes Create AAC Version may not be there. If that is the case then click once on the mp3 file so it is highlighted and then click on either Advanced and then Create AAC Version or click on File, then Convert and then Create AAC Version.
  4. Now, you will have a second version of the music file in the iTunes Library, but the time will be shorter. Right click on the newly created clip and then click on Show in Windows Explorer or Show in Finder if you are using a Mac.
  5. Now we need to rename the file into a ringtone. If you see the name of the song with .m4a at the end right click on the file and click after the m4a and change it to m4r and press enter. If you don't see .m4a after the name of the song then follow these steps to unhide the extension.
    1. Click on the Start menu and the type folder.
    2. Click on Folder Options or if you are using Windows 10 click on Show hidden files and folders.
    3. Make sure the View tab is selected and then uncheck Hide extensions for known file types.
    4. Now rename the .m4a file to a .m4r file.

Step 2 - Add ringtone to iTunes Library first and then to the iPhone

  1. Now we want to drag the new m4r file into iTunes. Here is where it is easy to make a mistake. It seems normal to try and drag the file into the iPhone Tones folder. But if you drag it there then the mp3 file will appear grayed out in iTunes and you won't be able to use it in the iPhone itself. Instead, you need to drag the ringtone file into the iTunes Library first. So if you are viewing the iPhone Tones folder in iTunes then click the back arrow in iTunes until you are viewing the iTunes Library of songs. Then change the folder from Music to Tones.
  2. Another way to make sure that the ringtone is added to iTunes Library is to unplug your iPhone from the computer, then minimize iTunes and go to the folder that the ringtone file is in and double click it. It will be imported into iTunes and start playing. Change to the iTunes Library Tones folder. There you will see the new ringtone. Now plug in your iPhone and wait for iTunes to recognize it. Then drag the ringtone by clicking on it and holding the mouse button down and drag the file slightly to the left. A drawer will open and show your iPhone. Now release the mouse button with the ringtone file on top of your iPhone.

Now, if you click on the iPhone icon and then under On My device click on Tones, you will see that the new ringtone is listed and is no longer grayed out. Now you will be able to see and use the ringtone on your iPhone.

Last updated on February 22, 2018
Created on May 25, 2017

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