How to Convert an MP3 to an iPhone Ringtone

There are a number of easy ways to convert an .mp3 song file to a ringtone for your iPhone. I typically use Garageband since the method is quick and easy. I realize that not everybody owns Garageband, so I’m pleased to share this other free method. Compared to using GarageBand there are more steps, but it’s not difficult to do.

Important: This process doesn’t work for copyright-protected songs (.mp4) purchased from the iTunes store.

  • Open iTunes, go to the iTunes menu and select Preferences.
  • Click on the General button, then click the Import Settings button.
  • From the pick-list next to “Import Using” select AAC Encoder. Click the OK button. Click the OK button a second time to exit out of Preferences.
  • Play the .mp3 song file you want to convert to identify the 20-30 section of the song you’d like to use for the ringtone. Specifically, you’ll need to write down the start and end time of your desired section. You can do this by watching the timer that iTunes displays near the top of its window.
  • Click once on the mp3 song file. Go to the File menu and select Get Info.
  • Click on the Options button so you can enter the Start and Stop times to set the 20-30 section that you want to become your ringtone.
  • Go to the Advanced menu and select Create AAC version. [Update March 2013: In iTunes 11, instead of using the Advanced menu, right-click or  control-click the song and choose Create AAC Version from there.] This will cause a duplicate copy of the song file to be created. This duplicate copy will only be the length you selected when you set the Start and Stop times.
  • Before you forget, return to the original mp3 song file and clear the Start and Stop times. You don’t need to re-enter the original times. I simply leave these fields blank and iTunes automatically knows to play the entire song.
  • Click on the newly created AAC song file to select it.
  • Go to the File menu and select Reveal in Finder. It may be listed as Show in Finder instead. This will open a Finder window showing you this AAC song file. Leave this window open. We’ll return to it in just a minute.
  • Go to iTunes and make sure your AAC song file is selected.
  • Go to the Edit menu and select Delete.
  • You may be asked if you’re sure you want to remove this file from your iTunes Library. You’re sure, so click the Remove button.
  • Next, you’ll be asked, “Do you want to move the selected song to the Trash or keep it in the iTunes Media folder?” Click the Keep File button.
  • Return to the Finder window that you left open. You’ll see the AAC version of the song file. You can identify it since its filename ends with .m4a file.
  • Change .m4a to .m4r
  • Drag this .m4r file onto the iTunes on the Dock. This will import this .m4r file into iTunes and it’ll show up in the ringtones section.
  • Sync your iPhone and make sure that you’ve selected to sync all Ringtones. This will add the ringtone to your iPhone. Then you can assign it to a particular person listed in Contacts.

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