Q: I just purchased an iPhone 3G. The first thing I did was download songs from iTunes on my PC to my phone. Is there a way to use my downloaded songs in my phone for ringtones?
A: The songs that are stored on your iPhone in the actual “iPod” section cannot be directly used as ringtones, however you can turn these tracks into ringtones on your computer and then sync them back to your iPhone’s “Ringtones” section via iTunes.
Note that in order to do this with purchased music you will have to be using DRM-free tracks from the iTunes Store. “iTunes Plus” tracks purchased prior to April 2009 and all tracks purchased since then are DRM-free. You can check this in iTunes by highlighting the track and choosing File, Get Info from the iTunes menu. The “Summary” tab will indicate whether the track is a “Protected AAC File” or “Purchased AAC File.” Only purchased AAC files can be converted into ringtones.
There are a number of third-party tools that you can actually use to create ringtones, including the free MakeiPhoneRingtone for Mac users and Ringtone Expressions (formerly iPhoneRingToneMaker) for Windows users. Mac users can also use GarageBand to create ringtones.
Note that ringtones are actually just AAC format audio files that are 40 seconds or less in length and have an M4R extension. Therefore, to convert a track into a ringtone in iTunes you simply need to create a trimmed AAC version of your song, rename it to have an M4R extension, and then reimport it back into iTunes. You can do all of this directly within iTunes.
To create a trimmed version of a track, first pick a section less than 40 seconds in length that you want to turn into a ringtone. Note the start and stop times within the track. Once you’ve done this, select the track and choose Get Info from the File menu in iTunes. When the track properties window appears, choose the “Options” tab.
From here, you can specify a start time and stop time for your track. Specify the start and stop times that you noted earlier, making sure that the total is less than 40 seconds in length, and then click OK. This will tell iTunes to only play this section of the track, but these are merely markers at this point. To actually create the shortened version you need to tell iTunes to convert it to a new file. To do this, ensure the track is still selected and choose Create AAC Version from the Advanced menu in iTunes.
Note that if you see “Create MP3 Version” on the Advanced menu instead, then you will need to go back into your iTunes preferences and set your default import format to use AAC. MP3 ringtones are not supported on the iPhone.
Once iTunes has created the new version of your track, you can simply drag-and-drop it onto your Windows or Mac Desktop to make a copy of the file. From there, rename the file to change the extension from .M4A to .M4R and then reimport it back into iTunes. It should appear under the “Ringtones” section and you can then sync it to your iPhone using the “Ringtones” tab under your iPhone settings in iTunes.