iPhoneTips & How-to

Why Can’t Make Free iPhone Ringtone in iTunes? Here are the Solutions

January 5, 2012 — by Simon Ng71


iPhoneTips & How-to

Why Can’t Make Free iPhone Ringtone in iTunes? Here are the Solutions

January 5, 2012 — by Simon Ng71

iTunes 10 logoThis is a follow-up to my post on creating free ringtone with iTunes. The post has been published for more than a year. Base on the feedback, I’m so glad it helped so many iPhone users make their own ringtones for free. However, as revealed from the comments, some users may encounter a few issues during the cooking of ringtones. In brief, here are the common issues:

  1. No ringtone tab in iTunes
  2. No option to create ringtones in AAC version
  3. No way to change file extension from .m4a to .m4r (specifically for Windows users)

In this post, I’ll go through the problems one by one and show you the solution.

1. No Ringtone tab in iTunes

Some readers mentioned they couldn’t find the ringtone tab in the left pane of iTunes. Though it’s rare, the ringtone tab may not be enabled by default. To show the ringtone library, go to “Preferences”. In the “Show” section under the “General” tab, the options available here let you control the type of library (e.g. music, movie, etc) to show up in iTunes. If you do not see the ringtones library, probably you haven’t set the “Ringtones” (or “Tones”) checkbox. Just make sure you enable it and click “OK”. iTunes should now show you the ringtones library.

Enable Tones Tab in iTunes

If you’re using iTunes 10.5 or up, please note that Apple has replaced “Ringtones” with “Tones”.

Tones replace Ringtone in iTunes

2. No “AAC Version” Option

iTunes Create AAC Version

One of the requirements in making ringtone is to create an AAC version for your selected song. Some readers mentioned they couldn’t find this option in iTunes. iTunes only shows them the “MP3” option or “AIFF” option.

The reason why you can’t find the AAC option is that you have configured the import setting to use other encoders (e.g. MP3). To enable the AAC option, go to “Preferences”. Under the “General” tab, click “Import Settings”.

iTunes Import Settings

Select “AAC Encoder” and click “OK”. You should now see the “Create AAC version” option by right-clicking on any of your songs.

iTunes AAC Encoder

3. No Way to Change File Extension from .m4a to .m4r in Windows

In order for iTunes to recognize files as ringtones, it’s required to name the song files in .m4r extension. This is a crucial step. But some Windows users found it difficult to rename the file extension as Windows Explorer doesn’t display the extension.

By default, Windows Explorer does not display the file extension. To make it work, click “Organizer” –> “Folder and search options” –> Select “View” tab. In the advanced setting, uncheck “Hide extensions from known file types” and click “OK” to apply. From now on, Windows Explorer shows you the file extension.

4. Keep it Under 40 seconds

From my experience, iTunes doesn’t allow ringtone (or text tone) longer than 40 seconds. So keep it short!

Got other questions about creating ringtones? Feel free to leave us comment.

Simon Ng

Founder, developer and chief blogger of simonblog.com

  • dayna

    my ringtone is under 40secs and itunes says its too long when i try to put it on my phone even when i change it too 6secs says its too long.

    • Valerie Slade

      Thank you! at last somebody has given clear precise non americanised step by step instructions! I now have my ringtones all in place great advice thanks

  • David

    Simon, I used your process a week ago to successfully create 4 ringtones for my iPhone 4S using iTunes 10 on a Macbook.
    But today the same process no longer works.
    rather (1) When I create the AAC file, it no longer puts it in the playlist I’m in, but it puts it in the Recently Added playlist
    (2) I don’t have the option to delete the original file in the Recently Added playlist, nor in any other playlist I create and move that file into.
    (3) double-clicking on the .m4r file no longer puts it into the tones folder, so although I can create a ringtone, I can’t delete the m4a file and can’t get the m4r file into the Tones folder.
    What the heck is going on?
    The process used to work but now it doesn’t.

  • David

    I got it to work – you have to be in LIBRARY – Music, then you can delete the files and then double-clicking on the file name in Finder moves it to the Tones folder. Thanks!
    Happy again,

  • Joanna

    I’ve created a ringtone and can see it in the tones section of itunes. I’ve selected all tones and synced with my iphone, made sure it’s a .m4r file etc. Have followed all the advice on various threads and still can’t see my ringtone in the Sounds section of my iPhone 4S…infuriating having such an expensive phone that doesn’t even make it easy to use your own ringtones! Any suggestions?
    Thanks in advance.

    • Scott

      Got it!!!!!
      After going thru the suggestions of other sites I have put them all together…..
      Have a 4S, downloaded free ringtones – could see them in iTunes but they wouldn’t show up the the Sounds menu on my phone.

      In iTunes, go to Tones and right click on the ringtone and go to Get Info – then rename/add file with a .m4r on the end…Sync and enjoy.

      Worked for me , hope it does for you as well.

      • Kim

        This worked for me. Thanks so much, Scott!

        • Stu

          Worked for me.
          Just to clarify.
          go to Tones and right click on the ringtone and go to Get Info – then click info, then on the song name add .m4r at the end, sync, enjoy.

    • Neeraj

      Its actually very very simple..

      if are still facing this prob do let me know..
      I shall email u the basic steps to do so..

      Its pretty simple & easy to do so..


      • Maria

        Hi there,

        Have been fussing with a single ringtone for about an hour now and can’t get this to work! I’ve changed the file extension to .m4r, yet the ringtone stays stubbornly in Library. Copy-paste it to Tones and as soon as I sync my iPhone 4s, the ringtone disappears from both Tone folders. GAAAAH!

        This is so stupid. Also, unrelated to this, my iTunes keeps deleting all the music that I’ve imported from CDs. It only syncs shit that I’ve bought from iTunes. Wonder what setting I’m missing…

        Help appreciated, thanks! 🙂


      • michele watson

        hi, could you please email me the steps to do this as i have tried numerously to get the tones to go as a ringtone on my iphone 4, but i must be doing something wrong, none of the songs are going into the left side panel in itunes where it says tones, i am a total newbie at this, i dont know how to do it right, tried following what people ave said, but not working, dunno what i`m doin wrong, really frustrating now.


      • Chris

        For some reason when i go to create AAC it says create MP3 instead. Know how to fix it?

  • ORAH

    the sync of the ringtones worked but when i searched the new ringtones on the iphone its appear in the tones options!
    the format is ok (m4r)

    could i get some help??

  • Alfredo

    great help thank you

  • hizz

    thank you for sharing, now i can enjoy my new ringtone…hehhe

  • Stephen

    Thank you so much! I was getting so frustrated last night and this morning trying to figure out how to make ringtones for my 4S.

    • michele

      can you tell me step by step how u ave done it please, this is so frustratin.


  • Bane

    Yeah, this isn’t working for me.

    I used all the other steps in order to change it to a .m4r but when I put it into Tones, it comes up grey. To the left of the check mark (on the name of the Tone) it has a little recycle symbol of two arrows.
    What does that mean?

  • Bane

    Found my own solution!

    I still had to register my iPhone, and after doing so, it worked.

    • Serena

      I’m having that same problem where the custom ring tone is in the Tones section, but it comes up gray, too, with the recycle symbol of two arrows. What do you mean you “registered” your iPhone? How do I do that?

  • kyle

    I have done all the steps above, and also got my file to change to m4r, but its not showing up in my Tones section or on my phone under ringtones. How do i get the file i created in there?

    • Laura

      I was having the same problem. I could get it to show up in tones on itunes, but not tones on the iphone (at least not without it being “grayed out” and not working).

      I somehow managed to get the tones directory open in a second window and then dragged it to the tones on my phone. And it FINALLY worked. Sheesh! As someone above said, it’s ridiculous to pay all of this money for the darned thing, and then to have it be such a pain to use for the “fun stuff”.

    • Rick

      I’ve got the same problem Kyle, it’s driving me nuts!!

  • manny

    cant find organizer cant get it to show m4r

    • kate

      its actually “organise” at the top left hand side underneath the “back” arrow…

      the rest of the bloggers tips are correct…

      hope this helps

    • neil

      I can’t find organise either. Under my back button is file, edit, view, favourites, tools and help. Under none of them is organise. Anyone any ideas.

      Thanks Neil

      • Andrey

        It clearly says that changes to be made in “WINDOWS EXPLORER” not in iTunes!!!!!!!

        So what you need to do is to open “My Computer” or “Computer” – for Vista or Win 7 users and in that window you will see “Organise” in the TOP LEFT CORNER!!!!!!

        Enjoy and read instruction twice or three times if required before asking questions, believe me it helps – had the same question after reading first time.

  • kate

    i was having problems with changing the file name, once i added .m4r the properties of the file were coming up “example.m4r.m4a”

    i had no idea how to fix the file extension!!
    you are a ringtone lifesaver…

    really helpful!!!

  • Denise

    Thank you! I really appreciated your help. Your directions were really clear and extremely helpful!

  • Payam

    I followed all the instruction as from the various sites and inputs, but still I have my ringtone file, in my Library Music but do not get it to any TONES, directory neighter on the Library nor on my phone.
    I can cut and past the file fro Library Music and put it in the windows of TONES, and when I drag the file to the iPhone icon, it shows that it is added, but then I find it in music and not in the TONES.
    Thanks for any feedback.

  • Connie Rayburn

    This was great! I wish I had found this article BEFORE I spent an entire day fighting with iTunes. Thanks a bunch 🙂

  • Jessa

    Please Help me! I just purchased the Iphone yesterday, and now I want to put custom ringtones on it.

    I can’t. I made the ring 30 seconds for sure, and then I didn’t have the AAC option so I changed it from mp3 to AAC and the AAC is still grayed, so I can’t select it, please help me!

  • Marj

    New iPhone user, here – I’ve been able to create the 30 second file, and have found “tones” and checked it, but nothing shows up in the Tones folder, and I can’t seem to put it there. Ideas?

  • Marj

    ..and now, I don’t have the whole song anymore! Only the 30 second bit. Aargh!!!

  • Dawn

    When I try to create the AAC version, my iTunes says that it can’t because the music is protected. Any advice, please?

  • Dawn

    When I try to create the AAC version, my iTunes says that it can’t because the music is protected. Any advice, please? I can’t get past this point.

  • Trudi

    Ok, call me stupid but, the ringtone I created is in my iphone itunes but not in the sounds menu of my phone. How do I set the ring tone as my ringer now? I am clueless and am going googlely eyed from reading so much and trying to figure this out! HELP!

  • Allymackers

    I made a tutorial about how to enable file format conversions on windows 7 and also how to create custome made ring tones on iphone 4s. Might be of help to some of you hopefully, let me know what you think as I have never done one before.



  • Oxana

    Just upload your audio file to http://www.Ringer.org and cut it yourself there. Free online ringtone maker

  • Charlene

    Thank you.. Thank you David. I have been going around in circles all night. You need to delete the song from Library Music… then it all works as Simon said. You guys are awesome!!1

  • Jennifer

    I can’t get iTunes to create my clipped version of the song to even begin to create a ringtone. I go to “get info,” “options” and insert my start and stop times, under 30 seconds, and press ok. But iTunes doesn’t create the clipped version. Any thoughts? Thanks!

  • Tony

    Quick comment – this was very helpful. I had the issues with not seeing the ringtone show up on the iPhone in sounds after having converted to a .m4r. Bottom line – I unselected it in iTunes; applied and then reselected it in iTunes and it showed up… might just need to tinker…


  • SeanL

    I created my ringtone and saved it to my local directory and I see that it does have the .m4r extension, however when I drop it in my iTunes Library, it goes to my MUSIC folder and not my Tones folder!

    Can you help? What am I doing wrong?

  • Heidi

    Figured out how to fix the “grayed” out problem!!!

    Okay, so when you have your .m4r file, make sure that it is listed in your itunes library under the “tones” section (*note that this is NOT the “tones” section for you phone, but for your computer’s itunes library*).
    If you go to the “tones” section in your itunes library and drag your .m4r file to the “tones” section on your phone, it will transfer properly and not be grayed out.


  • Joe

    Hi Simon,

    Thank you for your great instructions.

    My problem is (iPhone 4S) that my 29″ tone actually shows up on the phone, however when I went to set it as my ringtone or alarm tone the phone would not save the change; instead it just revert back to the last tone used and shows this in the UI.

    Any idea please?


  • Gary

    Simon–thanks for the great tutorial! I was able to create several 30 sec. ringtones by following your directions without a problem. Unfortunately, though, the songs I used now only play for 30 sec. when I try to play them in iTunes (even though the ” listed” duration of the song is still the original 3-4 min.). Any thoughts for what I may have done wrong, or how to remedy this?

    • Daryl

      you need to delete that song from itunes, then get the original song from your computer folder, and then drag it back into the music section in e itunes library. that should fix it!

      • Gary

        Daryl-Thanks for the suggestion. I actually ended up going into “options” and unchecked “stop time”. That has fixed the problem

  • Daryl

    hi!! I am currently having a problem, when i sync the ringtone into my iphone, it shows the name but when i click on it, no tone is played. everything is done to the exact instructions. and i have been creating my own ringtones since a month ago. it has been successful until now. furthermore, the subsequent ringtones that i try to create do not even appear in my iphone even though it does on the tones section in itunes.. how?? help!!

  • Emily

    Problem Solved!

    I had a .m4r file under 30 seconds showing in my iTunes playlist, but not in the tones folder.

    I had successfully made this work before, but now I have a newer computer.

    I opened the folder where my wanted ringtone was and it showed as
    back 2 basics.m4r

    BUT the file extension was not showing.

    Follow step 3 of this page. I did this and saw my file was really named back 2 basics.m4r.m4a

    DELETE the .m4a and the file should just be whateveryoursongiscalled.m4r

    when you successfully try to change the file extension you will be prompter with “are you sure…”
    Add it to your iTunes playlist again

    it will automatically add to TONES or RINGTONES in iTunes. Then sync your phone.

    PS the ‘organize’ in the folder is in the upper left hand .

    • hippl

      whr gt organizer???



  • Aaron


    So, I followed all the steps to create an .m4r file for songs I already had in my itunes. The file is ready, i clciked the tones option in he pref too and it shows up in itunes now. But though, I can play the file in itunes, it doesn’t show up under the tones tabs. I also can’t drag and drop it into the itunes library-music section from the desktop. Why is this happening? Any clues!

  • Aaron

    Also, when I choose my iphone 4 in the device section of itunes, though tones shows up in the left hand side menu, it doesn’t show up with the other options next to summary, apps, music etc.

  • Jennifer

    My import setting is AAC Encoder and the create AAC version is still greyed out. Can this be changed?

    I have a ring tone maker but the instructions are to sync; which will wipe everything out so the tones that I have created are useless. (I have m4r tones in the tones folder but they are still greyed out… won’t show up on my phone unless I sync)

    I am running 10.6; I refused updates for a long time but my video card went out and I had to get a new Computer in Feb… so I have a newer version now. Everything with Apple is a “cluster”. I hope one day I can find a better product.

  • Octolord Starr

    The ringtone won’t appear in my ringtones! It appears in my music.

    BUT! The even sillier thing is, if I don’t sync my music, it WILL appear in my ringtones! But if i go back to syncing my music, it’ll disappear. Can I get both my ringtone and my music? : (

  • dee

    i cant find the ringtone in iphone nor itunes..after i followed the steps…. help

  • Theresa

    Hi, I go to sync it gives the msg: “Are you sure you want to sync tones? All existing tones on the iPhone “Theresa’s iPhone” will be replaced with tones from your iTunes library.” I press sync anyway and I get the msg: The iPhone “Theresa’s iPhone” is synced with another iTunes library. Do you want to erase this iPhone and sync with this iTunes library? An iPhone can be synced with only one iTunes library at a time. Erasing and syncing replaces the contents of this iPhone with the contents of this iTunes library. Now I only have one itunes open and i certainly don’t want to lose my original iphone ringtones, but this kind of sounds like that’s what might happen. Am I right or wrong? I have a iphone 4s and a macbook pro OS X 10.7.4.

  • Lizzette


    Thank you so much. This was very helpful!!!!!

  • sue

    I go to sync it gives the msg: “Are you sure you want to sync tones? All existing tones on the iPhone “SueShoes iPhone” will be replaced with tones from your iTunes library.” Of course I press cancel as I don’t want to do something I’m not sure about. Whats up with that? I have to either have my songs or the couple of tunes I created???? Why can’t I just add the tunes I created? I am a first time iPhone user (iPhone 5). Please HELP!

  • Guest

    I pulled my hair for an hour to create a ring tone for my iPhone 4.
    You just saved my hair.

  • Daniel B

    Hi, originally I thought not having my import setting set to AAC was the reason I didn’t have a Create AAC option, that is not the case. The import settings are already set to AAC yet I don’t have the option when I right click the mp3 file to create acc. 🙁

  • Daniel B


  • I’ve done every single step yet “Create AAC Version” is still grayed out. I’ve followed every step and it’s been three days! Why is it not available to click?

    • Christina Lönquist

      i have the same problem

  • Ankou

    I too cannot even see the Create AAC Version and I have made sure that the AAC encoder is set and still nothing happens

  • ktpoo

    I have iTunes 11.1.4. I can click on “Create AAC Version” but nothing happens. Plus, I have a Mac Book Air; their are no “right” or “left” clicks, so how do I interpret that command?

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  • Gal Eva

    Hello. I have a question. I made all the steps, the ringtones are in Tones but I cannot sync them with my Phone. IS there some limitation of only 1 ringtone?