Creating ringtones for iPhones

I think my worst fears are being brought to reality, and this is becoming a technical blog.  I guess if your worst fears in the world are about blog entries, your life’s pretty sweet, so I’ll stop complaining now…   🙂

Mrs Zoo Keeper and I have had a variety of mobile phones over the years, from big brick Nokias back in the 1990s through iPhones, Android phones and yet more iPhones.  Whilst our current preferred mobile is the Apple device (iPhone 4S for both of us), we do have our little niggles with it, and one of my personal bugbears is the difficulty in getting custom ringtones on there.  Of course ringtones can be bought, but I’m a little too tight for that, especially when I already own the sounds I want as ringtones.

There are many sites on the internet explaining how to achieve the goal, with references to apps on the phones, applications you can install on your computer, and using iTunes, along with others.  My personal preference is to use iTunes – it’s fairly straightforward, is similar in OS X and Windows (I’m one of the odd people who actually prefers iTunes in Windows to other media/phone management programs), and most importantly to me at least, is free!

The instructions below relate specifically to iTunes 11.0.1.12, but they’ve been pretty stable for a good few years, and should be fairly similar whatever your version.  They are also specific to Windows, but if you replace “Windows Explorer” with “Finder”, there aren’t many variations.

Firstly, you’ll need your source media.  This must be already in iTunes’ music library, and it must be in MP3 format, but remember you can just add the file and remove it later if you wish.  For this example, I’m going to choose a random song from my library to create the ringtone from.  It’s important to note that the ringtone must be no longer than 30 seconds, so as my chosen tune is over 2 minutes long, I’ll be able to demonstrate how to just choose and cut out the part you want.

After opening iTunes and selecting your source media, right click on the file and select “Get Info”.  On the “Options” tab, you’ll see “Start Time:” and “Stop Time:” checkboxes.  By playing through the song, you can find your less than 30 second chunk, and define it using these boxes.  You can see from my choice below, that I’ve chosen my 25 second chunk between 10 seconds into the song and 35 seconds into the song :

Click OK at this point, and we can move on to creating our file.

Right click on your source media again in iTunes, and this time select “Create AAC Version”.  You’ll notice a new song in your library, with the same information details, but it’s only as long as the chunk you chose.  It’s often easier to find these if you sort by “Date Added” and look right at the top of your library list.  Obviously, if your source is already less than 30 seconds long, you don’t need to select a start and stop time if you don’t want to, but you will still have to create the AAC version.

The next task is to right click on your new library entry and choose “Show in Windows Explorer”.  This opens an Explorer window, and in there you’ll see your file, with a .m4a extension.  To change this file into a ringtone, all we need to do is change that .m4a to .m4r.  Press F2 to rename the file or right click on it and select “Rename”.  Press “Yes” when asked if you’re sure you want to change it :

We now need to remove the file we renamed from the library.  Switch back to iTunes and select your new media file.  Right click on it and select “Delete”.  Confirm you want to “Delete Song”.  If asked if you wish to remove the file from your computer, select “Keep File” :

It is a good idea at this point to also remove the start and stop times from your original media, so that the next time you play it you hear the full song!  🙂

Again, it’s as simple as right clicking on the item and selecting “Get Info”, then unticking the checkboxes.

The .m4r file that you created can now be imported into the iTunes “Tones” folder (note that this may not be visible by default, and you may need to edit your preferences to display it.  To import the file, you can either drag it from the Explorer window you opened earlier into the iTunes window, or simply double click it for the import to happen automatically.

The last job is to sync the ringtone to your iPhone, and choose it as normal from your “Sounds” phone settings, or apply it to specific contacts etc.

I hope this little tit bit helps you fill up your memory with ringtones that you enjoy, and that don’t cost you the earth!

The Zoo Keeper

Author: TheZooKeeper

An IT Consultant, specialising in messaging and infrastructure (Wintel). Diabetic who used to like chocolate, doughnuts and Frank's RedHot sauce, but never got the chance to try all three in combination!

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