How to Set a Custom Ringtone on iPhone

Learn how to make a custom ringtone on your iPhone

What to Know

  • The simplest way to add new ringtones to your iPhone is to buy them from the iTunes Store app, but it isn’t free.
  • You can set up custom ringtones using audio clips from Apple’s Music app on your Mac computer.
  • You can also create clips using downloaded audio files in the Garageband app instead.

This article explains how to set custom ringtones on your iPhone.

How Do I Add a Custom Ringtone?

The simplest and fastest way of using custom ringtones on your iPhone is through official channels. Which is to say you pay for and download the ringtones you want directly to your iPhone from the iTunes Store app. 

You'll need to ensure the iTunes Store app is installed on your iPhone before attempting anything from this section. If it's not, you can get the iTunes Store app in the App Store.

  1. Open the iTunes Store app.

  2. Tap More in the bottom right corner of the screen.

  3. Tap Tones at the top of the menu.

    Finding Ringtones in the iTunes app on an iPhone.
  4. The store includes several categories of potential tones, from music to film to sound effects. You can find what you want by browsing through the hi-lighted categories on the main page.

  5. Or tap Genres at the top of the screen to pull up a list of all available genres (Alternative, Comedy, Dialogue, Sound Effects, etc.) and find the category that suits your needs best.

  6. Each genre has sub-categories like New & Noteworthy, What’s Hot, and More to Explore.

    Selecting the genre for your ringtone in the iTunes store app on an iPhone.
  7. Tap See All in the corner of a sub-category's associated window to explore it further.

  8. Alternately, you can tap Search at the bottom of the screen, type in a specific title or topic, and then scroll through the results until you get to the Ringtones section.

  9. Tap on a tone to view more details.

    Choosing a specific ringtone to buy in the iTunes store app on an iPhone.
  10. Tap on the tone’s name (displayed in blue) to listen before purchasing it. Or you can tap on the ringtone’s icon when in the main menu to listen to it instead.

  11. When you’ve found the tone you want, tap the price.

  12. A menu will appear, giving you the option to Set as Default Ringtone, Set as Default Text Tone, or Assign to a Contact. Or if you’d rather download the ringtone and not choose right away, tap Done.

  13. A confirmation box will appear, displaying your total cost. Tap Purchase to confirm or Cancel if you’ve changed your mind.

  14. Open your iPhone’s Settings and tap Sounds & Haptics to assign your ringtones.

    Finishing the steps to buy a ringtone in the iTunes store app on an iPhone.
  15. Scroll down the menu to SOUNDS AND VIBRATION PATTERNS, then select the sound you want to change (in this case, Ringtone).

  16. Scroll through your RINGTONES list and tap the one you want to use. The ringtone will play as a preview once selected.

    Finding and choosing a newly purchased ringtone on an iPhone.

How Do I Put Custom Ringtones on My iPhone for Free?

You can convert songs you already have in iTunes into ringtones, but if you’re using a newer version of macOS (anything from 2019’s Catalina and up), you won’t have access to iTunes at all. Instead, you can use Music.

You must use the Music app on both your Mac to follow these steps, but you do not need to have a subscription to complete this process.

  1. Open the Music app.

    Open Music
  2. If the song or sound you want to use is already in your library, you can find it in one of the categories under Library on the left side of the screen.

  3. If you want to use a file that isn’t loaded into your library yet, click File and then Import. Or press Command O.

    Choosing Import in the Music app on the Mac.
  4. Navigate to the file you want to add, select it, then click Open. You can also click on the play button on the file’s icon to listen to a preview to ensure it’s the one you want.

    Finding the file you'd like to import into the Music app on the Mac.
  5. You’ll find the newly added file under Recently Added.

    Find recently imported files in the Music app on the Mac in the Recently Added section from the sidebar.
  6. Right-click on the song and select Get Info.

    Selecting Get Info from the file you recently added in the Music app on the Mac.
  7. Click on the Options tab in the menu, then enter the times you want the clip to start and stop in their respective boxes. Be aware the total time for the clip cannot exceed 30 seconds.

    Adjusting the time stamp you'd like to use for the ringtone in the Music app on the Mac.
  8. Click OK to finalize your selection.

  9. From the clip’s info page, click on the clip to select it, then at the top of the screen, click File > Convert > Create ACC Version.

    The correct selection to use when exporting a music file to use as a ringtone in the Music app on the Mac.
  10. The 30 second clip will appear on the list underneath the original clip.

    Your newly exported file highlighted in the Music app on the Mac.
  11. Once created, you’ll want to follow steps 6 through 9 to restore the original clip to its proper length. Just make sure both the Start and Stop boxes are unchecked, and it should default back to normal when you click OK.

  12. Right-click on the 30-second clip and select Show in Finder to find the actual file on your computer. It should be using a “.m4a” file extension.

    Using a contextual menu in the Music app on the Mac to find the newly created file in the Finder.
  13. Right-click the file and select Rename.

    Using a contextual menu to rename a file in the Finder on a Mac.
  14. Give the file any name you want, but make sure to change the extension from “.m4a” to “.m4r” to make sure your iPhone will recognize it.

    The dialog box asking you to make sure you want to change the file extension to a different format in the Finder on a Mac.
  15. Connect your iPhone to your Mac using the necessary Lightning or USB cable, then in Music, select your iPhone and click Sync Settings.

    Using the Music app on the Mac to sync files to an iPhone.
  16. On the General tab, make sure Manually manage music, movies, and TV shows is on and click Apply to finish.

    Ensure you have the right settings in the Music app on the Mac so when you sync files, the files you want to move over do in fact move over to the iPhone.
  17. Go back to the folder where the new clip .m4r file is, then drag and drop it into Music, making sure your iPhone is still connected to your computer, and it’s still selected in the Music app.

  18. The new ringtone may not appear on your iPhone’s page in Music, so go into Settings > Sounds & Haptics > Ringtone to check.

  19. The new ringtone should appear right at the top of your list. Tap it to set it as your new ringtone, and you’re done!

How Can I Put Ringtones on My iPhone Without iTunes or Music?

Provided you already have music files you want to use or have some in mind you want to download, it’s also possible to set them up as ringtones on your phone without using iTunes or Music. First, you’ll need to download or transfer the music files to your phone with the Files app to make it work.

You’ll need to download and install both the Garageband app and the Files app from the App Store on your iPhone to follow these steps.

  1. Open Garageband and tap Audio Recorder.

    Audio Recorder feature in Garageband on an iPhone
  2. Tap View (the icon looks like a small series of horizontal lines towards the top-left of the screen).

    The View icon in Garageband on an iPhone.
  3. From the new screen, tap Loop (which looks like a small loop, close to the top-right corner of the screen).

    The Loop icon in Garageband on an iPhone.
  4. From the Files tab, tap Browse items from the Files app.

    Steps to take to find the file you need to create your ringtone in the Garageband app on an iPhone.
  5. Select the file you want to use, and you’ll be taken back to the Files tab, where the selected file will now appear.

    Selecting your file to make a ringtone in the Garageband app on an iPhone.
  6. Tap and hold the song for a second or two, and it will import to Garageband.

  7. Tap and drag along the lined bar at the top of the screen (beneath the Play and Record buttons) to set the starting point for your audio clip. Be aware the final audio clip you use for a ringtone will have to be less than 30 seconds long.

    Adjusting the playback head on a track in Garageband on an iPhone.
  8. Double-tap the audio clip, tap Split and drag the scissor icon down to cut the clip at the line.

    Steps to clip a track to make a ringtone in Garageband on an iPhone.
  9. Double-tap the portion of the clip you don’t want to use and select Delete.

    Steps to delete the portion of an audio track you no longer need in Garageband on an iPhone.
  10. Tap the down arrow in the top-left corner of the screen and select My Songs.

    My Songs
  11. Your clip will appear on the new screen, most likely with the title “My Song.”

    Saved clip
  12. Tap and hold the clip to pull up a menu, then scroll down and select Share.

    Steps to export the clipped audio track in Garageband on an iPhone.
  13. Select Ringtone, then Continue.

    Selecting Ringtone format type in Garageband on an iPhone.
  14. Tap Export in the top-right corner of the screen, and Garageband will begin exporting the new ringtone for you.

    The Export feature in Garageband on an iPhone.
  15. Tap OK to continue, or Use sound as if you want to use the new ringtone for something specific.

    Tap OK or Use sound as
  16. If you choose the latter, you can set the new clip as a Standard Ringtone, a Standard Text Tone, or Assign to contact.

    Set ringtone as
  17. Otherwise, you can go into your iPhone’s Settings > Sounds & Haptics > Ringtone to set your new ringtone manually. It will appear in the list alphabetically as “My Song” if you didn’t change the name or under whatever name you decided to give it in Garageband.

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