Tutorial Thursday

One of the things that Apple hasn’t made easy for iPhone owners is providing a way to create custom ringtones in Windows. If you’re a Mac owner you can use GarageBand, but Apple doesn’t provide that application on Windows. Instead what they expect you to do is purchase a song for $0.99, and then convert it to a ringtone for another $0.99.

As it turns out in a few steps you can actually convert a DRM-free song into a ringtone using only iTunes in Windows. The trick also works for Mac users, but using GarageBand is a lot simpler so we’re focusing primarily on the Windows side.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Start iTunes and find the [DRM-free] song you want to convert to a ringtone. Right-click on it and select the Get Info option.
    itunes ringtone get info.png
  2. On the Options tab locate the Start Time and End Time options. This is where you want to specify the portion of the song you wanted converted into a ringtone. Check both of the boxes, and make sure your ringtone is under 30-seconds. Press OK when finished.
    itunes ringtone time.png
  3. Right-click on the song you just modified, and choose the Convert to AAC option. If you don’t see this in the context menu navigate to Edit -> Preferences -> Advanced -> Importing, and make sure the AAC Encoder is selected in the Import Using menu.
    itunes ringtone aac.png
  4. Once the song has finished being converted to the new format it will appear in your music list, and the “Time” should reflect the correct duration of the ringtone (which should be less than 30-seconds). Now navigate to your iTunes music folder to find the converted song. Here’s an example of where my Green Day ringtone was located:
    itunes ringtone folder.png
  5. Make sure you’re able to see the file’s extension (.M4A) like in the screenshot above. If you don’t see the extension go to Tools -> Folder Options -> View (Organize -> Folder and Search Options on Vista), and uncheck the Hide extensions for known file types box. Then click OK.
  6. Copy the music file (with the .M4A extension) to your desktop. Once you’ve done that rename the file’s extension to .M4R which will make iTunes recognize it as a ringtone. Make sure there are no symbols (underscores, hyphens, etc…) in the file name.
    itunes ringtone m4r.png
  7. In iTunes go to File -> Add File to Library, and then browse for the file from step 6. Once you’ve selected it press the Open button. iTunes will place the ringtone in the respective section in your library:
    itunes ringtone library.png
  8. Sync your iPhone with iTunes and your newly created ringtone should get transferred over. If it doesn’t be sure to check the Ringtones tab in the iPhone configuration section of iTunes to verify that it is setup to sync your ringtones.

–What is DRM?–

I’ve been getting all kinds of questions and emails from people asking what DRM is. An anonymous commenter below did a great job answering the question. Here is his response:

DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. In a nutshell, a song with DRM is meant to keep you from giving it to someone else. If you’re using Windows XP (and I’m sure there’s some equivalent for Vista), you can right-click on a song file, and choose Properties. Under the Summary tab, click the Advanced >> button if it’s there. Under the Origin heading, you will see an entry named ‘Protected’. If it says No, then the song does not have a DRM. If it says Yes, well, you may be able to pay Apple money to convert the song to an iTunes Plus track, which will be DRM-free. Hope this helps, best of luck!

That’s all there is to it. Now you can save yourself a bunch of money on ringtones. A big thanks to the Apple Blog who assembled the original instructions on how to do this for the Mac!