How to Convert an MP3 or M4A File to an iPhone Ringtone

So what is an iPhone ringtone anyway? Well in facts it’s simply just a regular iTunes “AAC” audio file with a slightly different extension name. In this example the iTunes audio file or song would have the “m4a” extension at the end (example: song.m4a).

If you want to turn it into a ringtone all you need to do is change the extension to that of “m4r” (example: song.m4r). So how do we do that or better yet, how would we change an iTunes “mp3” audio file into and “m4r” ringtone for an iPhone.

Let’s start from the beginning using an mp3 audio file, so if you already have your audio file or song in “AAC-m4a” format then you can skip to step number 4.

For this example we will use switch.mp3 as our base “mp3” song for reassignment as an iPhone ringtone.

Step 1 – Getting song into iTunes

If your song is not already in iTunes, drag it into the Music library window.


Step 2 – Import Settings

Make sure your Import settings are set to AAC (this is the default setting so for most you should be OK) To do this go into your iTunes Preferences -> General and look for the Import Settings button the near middle right side.


Select the AAC Encoder option in the top drop down menu, the quality settings are up to you.


Step 3 – Convert song to AAC

Go back and find the switch.mp3 song you dragged in earlier using the iTunes Search tool.


Make sure your song is selected and then using the iTunes Advanced Menu, navigate to Create AAC Version.


You will now have two copies of your song in your iTunes Library, the one that is highlighted is the non-AAC version. If you are unsure you can get info on the files using keyboard combo Apple Key + i on your Macs keyboard.

Step 4 – Convert “m4a” to “m4r”

Now drag the newly created AAC version of your song form your iTunes Music Library window to your desktop and then while it is selected on the desktop press Apple Key + i combo again to get info on the music file. You should see something like this:


Change it to this:


You may get asked if you are sure you want to change the extension, select the m4r option and proceed.

Step 5 – Move back into iTunes

I remove all traces of my original pre-converted songs form iTunes by using the iTunes search tool to find them and then press the delete key to delete them.

Now drag your new “m4r” ringtone into the iTunes Ringtones window and your done. Your ringtone is now ready to be synced with your iPhone.


Comments [83]

  1. Hi Ross,

    I see it in the Ringtones folder when my iphone is connected to my powerbook, but it does not show as an option to set as a ringtone in my iphone. Any suggestions?



  2. Had no problem converting to the AAC format and then to .m4r; Draggd it to the ringtone folder……but when I open the folder, nothing shows up.

    Does the iphone have to be connected for anything to show up in the ringtone folder???


  3. Zoomie,

    Did you delete the AAC file in iTunes before you added the .m4r file?

  4. i have the same issue. I deleted the AAC file in iTunes. Dragged the Mr4 file to ringtones in iTunes. I see it in my Ringtones in iTunes. I am able to play it as well. However when I sync it with my iPhone, this Ringtone which has the name of Real 333000 does not show up in my iPhone. Even though I do see that this file is being copied when i sync my iPhone. Any Ideas?

  5. Sorry for the confusion. Actually I had to reopen the "Settings" option in the iPhone to see it there. Works great. Thank you for the steps to convert MP3 to Ringtone…

  6. Everything was going well, but I cannot sync the ringtone from CPU to iphone ringtone.

  7. i have a windows xp so i don't have a apple key i converted the file to acc but i am stuck on step4

  8. can this be done on windows as i noticed u have a mac background

  9. This was working great, then like a fool, I did not delete the AAC file before adding the newly created ringtone. Now I can see the ringtone file in th ringtone list in iTunes, but when I I try to sync, there is no item in the Ringtone sync list.

    Can someone please help me and let me know what I can do to revert this mistake.

  10. For the ringtone to sync, the sound clip has to be 30 seconds or less which means editing the mp3 prior to converting it to AAC.

    When in iTunes, ctrl click and then select view in finder, make a copy of the chosen mp3 file and then edit it down to 30 seconds with a piece of software like audacity. ( Re-import the edited file to iTunes and then start again with step 2 on this tutorial.

  11. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!! I was having so much trouble figuring out how to get ring tones on my iphone, your step to step instructions was great! So finally i can enjoy my iphone to the fullest! Got all my favorite ring tones on with ease thanks to your tutorial:)

  12. Hi! Thank you for the instructions.. but i still have a probleme. When i sychronise my iphone on Itunes i cant see the ringtones in the Ringtones list….. :s What can i do about that?

    Thank you πŸ™‚

  13. when i cut the music down then convert the song to aac then drag it out from itune thats where i get stuck i cannot change it into m4r as it not a m4a does anyone have this problem or is it just me

  14. I put the file in a folder then go to properties, and change the A to an R. success!

  15. I followed the instructions just like everyone else and can see the m4r file in my Ringtones folder in iTunes. After syncing with my iPhone the m4r file appears in the Songs List or Recently Added Playlist but NOT in the Ringtones list. Does anyone know how to make it appear in the Ringtones list so I can select it?

  16. THANKS SOOO MUCh… I searched for hours on end trying to find a good way to convert. I wasted my time and internet data downloading different programs wich ofcourse did not work and finaly i found an ellegent yet simple tutorial on how to do it. THanks alot.

  17. I get through all of the steps and when I go to sync it it will go into my ringtones but then it deletes all of my songs listed in my ipod and this is with my mac and iphone 3gs….help!!!!

  18. after i convert it to a m4r im trying to drag it back into itunes and it wont let me…

  19. I have done all this and synced my phone – it is in itunes as a .m4r in ringtones folder. However I cant find it on my iphone to select it as a ringtone. any help appreciated

  20. people who are using windows have to go to control panel first…make it classic view…click on fold options then there is a box that says "show extensions of known files"…click that make…then hit ok…so when you rename the song out of itunes…the .m4a will show…then once you change it to m4r a message will pop up asking if you are sure youwant to do it…just click ok and continue.

    (I found the above and it solved the problem for me)

  21. Hey it work, cheers matey

    Just follow the steps indicated and you can't go wrong just make sure you delete the AAC version before dragging the M4R file that you created. Its that simple.

  22. I'm having some difficulty here. I've got the original Mp3. I can play it in iTunes. But when I get to the part where I'm supposed to convert it to an AAC version, the option is greyed out. I tried the old standby, right click and "convert this to a ring tone" but they only allow that with files you've purchased from them, the buggers.

    Any advice? Anyone know where I screwed up?

  23. I have the same problems with the other people who commented. I can pla ythe ringtone on itunes and stuff but when I tried to sync it into my iphone it doesn't show on my ringtone options in my iphone.

    What do i have to do to get it into my iphone?

  24. Hey

    I did everything and also synced it but did not see it in my settings option on the iPhone. What do i do?

  25. having trouble getting the m4r file to the itunes folder!!!please help

  26. I followed all the steps (really easy thanks) and have a .mpr file on the desktop. when I drag it into Ringtones in iTunes the whole LIBRARY section get a 'square' round it and nothing shows. what gives? the .mpr file plays ok when double clicked on the desktop so I know it's OK. help please!

  27. Here is what I had to do to make it work. After renaming the ringtone to .m4r, I had to remove the original song and the AAC song from the iTunes library and sync to the iPhone. Then I copied the .m4r ringtone to iTunes, synced again, and viola the ringtone was available as a custom ringtone under Sounds, Ringtones.

  28. yeah, it works for me as well, but when I add second custom ringtone, the first disappears from my iPhone (when I open iTunes it is still there!)..

    any clue, anyone?

  29. This was working great, . Now I can see the ringtone file in th ringtone list in iTunes, but when I I try to sync, there is no item in the Ringtone sync list.

  30. i have done the process step by step and NO PROBLEM … I see it in my Ringtones in iTunes. I am able to play it as well. However when I sync it with my iPhone, this Ringtone does not show up in my iPhone. PLEASE HELP

  31. Great and easy instructions, but when I tried to convert it to AAC iTunes would not let me, said it was in a protected format and would not let me change it, suggestions.


  32. This is great!! Thank you so much!!! Now i hv my fav tune as ringtone!

  33. Thank you so much Ross! This works perfect for the whole song, but could I set the ringtone to start somewhere specific in the middle of the song?

    Hope you can help with that as well πŸ™‚


  34. Lol just found out how to get the ringtones tab (you just drag the M4r in the tab or group on the top left where Music ,movies,tvshows,podcast ,ect) then it will create a new tab called Ringtones….My previous problem was by dragging it into music and then it said ringtone to long but when i did it by dragging in tab it synched and works perfectly!……….Hopes this helps!

  35. Ok…I see lots of you are saying you can see it in your itunes and after you sync it its not showing in your iphone.I had the same issue and some of the things to double check are:

    1. the ring tone is 30sec

    2.sometime(mind you sometimes) doesn't work on itunes where you don't have an account(don't ask me why)

    3.make sure all the files relating to the song are deleted.

    4.try it another computer(that's how it worked for me the first time)

    5.Again this happened sometimes when its syncing and just says step1 of 1 never seemed to work and when it says step1 of 3 or something like that it worked NO IDEA why.

    Hope this helps


  36. Thank you! This worked great on my PC onto my iPhone 4. I appreciate your time and all the comments.

  37. Ok- Have a problem- I do great– delete the original song, but then when I try to get the new m4r to go to my ringtones- nothing, I have synced, checked my 'sounds' on my phone, everything- am using an iphone 4 and a macbook pro- Help!

  38. Thanks Ross, it worked out just great!

    As for those wondering how to edit the ringtone to trim it down to your specific length and part of the music, open the .m4r file in Quicktime, and from the Quicktime menu, choose Edit, Trim. It will open the file for editing. Keep playing the file and sliding the handles till you get to your desired part and get the time right, and then choose File, Save As. Save it in .mov format on desktop, and then with Command i, change its extension to .m4r. Now drag this new file to your ringtones in iTunes, and you're good.

  39. I have a Dell keyboard and I don't have an Apple key so what key should I press

  40. hiiiiii I have a apple 2G mobile phone….I completed all steps like converting mp3 files..but I can't see any custom ringtones in my sound options……plz advice me

  41. umm i dnt have an ringtone folder, where do i find one or get one?

    and when i sync it to the iphone, where do i find that file in the iphone,

    and does it matter if its and iphone 4?

  42. Hi, i actualy created an m4r file using a separate software, i was able to put it in ringtones in my itunes, then finally i synced it with my iphone, i go to setings, sounds but the problem is i can't see the ringtone that i made. Hope someone can help me.

  43. It won't show me the aac file after I convert it? I can find it in the iTunes folder but can't get it into iTunes after renaming to m4r,

    And ideas?

  44. i can put the ringtone in my library ringtone but when i try to drag and drop into my Iphone, it won't let me, Nothing…Any reason why itο»Ώ won't let me drag and drop to the iphone icon??

  45. I noticed that you need to have a small filename for the ringtone.

    Until i've renamed my custom made ringtone, the iphone would not recognized it.

    Hope it helps out!

  46. Works perfectly! Thanks so much for the detailed and easy instructions πŸ˜€ !!!!!!!

  47. how do i cut the song down to 30 secs without downloading a dumb app..

  48. Or you could simply go to the music folder and select a song and set it as a ring tone… Oh wait nevermind that's my Android… And pretty much any other computer devise. How is it possible that an iPhone requires the aid of another computer to make a simple ring tone. Rediculous, iphones suck hard.

  49. I am stuck at Step 4, because I dont have Apple key, please advise which key to use

  50. Hmm, how about converting an mp3 or mp4 file to an iphone ringtone using a PC? Any solution?

  51. @Marianu: Thanks a lot, I was going crazy trying to put a long name song :S

  52. If you don"t have an apple key just right click and go to get info.

  53. Nup, wont import into the Tones (ringtones?) folder. Oh and nice comment Darren, if you don't like iPhones, maybe don't visit the sites that relate to them huh! Tool

  54. For windows, go to control panel, appearance and personalisation, folder options, view tab, uncheck "hide extensions for known file types", change m4a to m4r. Then drag and drop to itunes.

  55. It's 2012 and there is no longer a "ringtone" option in iTunes…..yikes……

  56. I am trying to help my mother in law convert her ringtomes so she can use them on her new Iphone. I am having a very hard time trying to get them converted. or even showing up on her phone. FRUSTRATED!

  57. It did not work. When synced, the m4r file went to music folder, and did not go to Tones file. Please advise.

  58. Thanks for the detailed instruction.
    I managed to create the ring tone in the format m4r and in i-tunes under ring tones I can find it. The problem I have is after I sync my phone which is a 2G with i-tunes the ring tone is not there( nor under ring tones and nor even under music either).
    I need help please.

  59. I can’t get the new file to drop into Itunes. Can you help me?

  60. I am using IOS 5.1.1, and itunes will no longer sync my custom rigtones. Before the 5.1 update I was able to do so.

  61. Thank you so very much!!!! Great instructions and it really worked! Made my day! πŸ™‚

  62. Wyn Brown,

    I deleted old files from ITunes and copied them to a folder in my docs/Itunes/Music/Tones. Once in there, I dragged them into ITunes Tones tab.

  63. Figured it out: I followed the instructions and my new tone wouldn’t load onto my iPhone and then I realized I needed to check “Tones” under my iTunes “Preferences”-> “General” tab, and then back in syncing my iPhone I needed to click on “Tones” at the top of the phone syncing horizontal menu. Voila! Hope that helps!

  64. My goodness! I was getting to the point where I was about to tear out my hair ~_~.

    I have a PC and I wasn’t able to change it to classic mode. I have Windows 7 and I needed to go to folder option and ‘Show extensions for known files’. I just did a ‘Search program and files’ for Folder Options and the rest is explained here.

    But thank you so much!

  65. Go to Computer (or any other folder) on PC.
    Go to Organize then Folder and Search Options.
    Go to View tab and uncheck Hide extensions for known filetypes.
    Now go to the file and you can change the extension.

  66. Thanks for the detailed instructions. I’ve successfully converted 3 tracks into ringtone. On my 4th track I edited it down to 29 secs, but when I drag the ACC converted file back onto my desktop it changes the track duration to 44 secs which then becomes too long to use as a ringtone. Any thoughts on how to maintain the 29 sec duration of the original track?

  67. Im not getting Switch.mp3 file.

    I have selected a file from itunes and went up to preferences – import settings – AAC Encoder and said ok. No switch file got created.

    Can somebody help me out.

  68. WHAT IS AN APPLE KEY? I try the Windows Key+i and it doesn’t do anything! What’s the alternative?

  69. ever since Itunes updated their site and went to the new updates … it won’t acknowledge Ringtones .. it won’t let you drag .. We need help with the NEW VERSION of Itunes of how to convert songs .. to Ringtones .. so they will show in the TONES folder??

  70. I successfully created the m4r file but am unable to get the new file to drop into iTunes – Tones folder. I am using iPhone 5 with iOS 6. Can you help me?

  71. Unless the iPhone is far, far behind even an older Nokia, this is totally unnecessary.

    On my Nokia, I loaded an mp3 file I had recorded myself and set it to me my ringtone. It took maybe two minutes. Just follow the steps in the menu to select something from your stored music files.

  72. After spending loads of time trying to sort this (had it all done but wouldn’t go to the folder I wanted and then wouldn’t play when it did) I found your guide so EASY to follow : ) Thanks!!!!

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