How to Copy Ringtone to iPhone from MacOS Big Sur & Catalina with Finder

Nov 20, 2020 - 16 Comments

How to copy ringtone to iPhone from macOS Finder

For Mac users trying to copy ringtones to their iPhone using a modern macOS release like Big Sur or Catalina, you’ll find it’s quite simple to do so, and a return to old habits.

Basically, all you need to do is drag and drop the ringtone file from the Mac file system to the iPhone, just like how iTunes used to work too. Of course that changed with later iTunes versions, and for Mojave and High Sierra users with iTunes they often find they can’t drag a ringtone to iPhone within iTunes, instead that process requires a copy and paste method.

But again, it’s as easy as drag and drop in macOS Big Sur and MacOS Catalina, but let’s cover exactly how this is done.

How to Copy Ringtones to iPhone from Mac with Finder

For MacOS Big Sur and Catalina, copying and transferring ringtones over to iPhone is quite simple, here’s all you need to do:

  1. Connect the iPhone to the Mac as usual
  2. Select the iPhone from the Finder in MacOS
  3. Locate the .m4r ringtone file in the file system, then drag and drop it into the iPhone “Sync” window within Finder
  4. The m4r ringtone file will copy to the iPhone from the Mac file system

Once the iPhone has the ringtone file copied to it, it will be available for use within the Contacts app as usual. You can select it as a general ringtone, assign it to a particular contact, use it as a text tone or custom ringtone, or whatever else you wish to do.

This is necessary for the most modern versions of macOS, including Big Sur and Catalina.

For longtime Mac users, they may recall the same drag and drop simplicity existed for a long time with iTunes as well, but that changed for whatever reason with later versions of iTunes software, which led to some frustration as users couldn’t get a ringtone over to their iPhone with iTunes any longer without learning the modified copy and paste method instead.

If you’re so inclined, you can also create ringtones directly on iPhone with Garageband (or make them in Garageband on the Mac and copy them over as directed above), and
set songs as ringtones on iPhone using GarageBand too.

You can even turn voice recordings into ringtones and copy those over to your iPhone as well, so if you have a favorite audio clip of someone saying a phrase, talking, yelling, hooting, hollering, being goofy, or being themselves, that offers yet another way to customize your ringtone experience. And if you have other audio files laying around, you can easily convert audio files to ringtone files on the Mac using QuickTime as discussed here, which can be handy for exporting audio tracks or even audio from video to use as a ringtone.

If copying your own ringtones isn’t your thing, and you don’t feel like making your own, you can also just buy ringtones from Apple, which are typically clips from songs.

Were you able to successfully copy and transfer ringtones and text tones to your iPhone (o iPad) using this method for the Finder in newer MacOS versions? Did you find another approach that worked for you? Share your experiences and thoughts, and let us know in the comments.


Related articles:

Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Ric T says:

    Richard the big bunny’s method works with latest iOS 14.7.1 & BigSur
    Thank you for the info

  2. vasya says:

    Like Richard the Big Bunny said, the file must not have metadata attached. It can be removed with:

    exiftool -all:all= your-file.m4r

    command. Once I did that, the files were successfully recognized as ringtones.

  3. Tokolosh says:

    on big sur it works with airdrop
    – prepare file in m4r*, less than 30 seconds, no space or special characters in name (I also removed tags but not sure if it’s necessary). My song is called CreamSunshine.m4r. It’s a neat ringtone, it’s a good song for in-store music, never fails to make people dance.
    – if phone is plugged to macbook via cable, unplug it.
    – send file via airdrop to iphone.
    – file now displays in ringtones.
    – Choose ringtone.
    – Smile

    Took me a while to figure that out but it works.

    * I had an mp3 that I edited with audacity, removing unwanted part and applying a fade out filter, I uploaded it to and converted it to m4r then downloaded it.

  4. Levi says:

    Still not working in 11.3.1 and iOS 14.5.1.

    • Paul says:

      Works just as described for me with macOS 11.3.1 and iOS 14.5.1, I used it to copy a silent ringtone over.

      Connect it with USB, then dragging the .m4r ringtone file into the iPhone Finder window and it works every time

  5. Richard the Big Bunny says:


    (1) Must be less than 30 seconds

    (2) Cannot have tags or metadata attached

    (3) Title with no spaces like: Bunny_Ringtone.m4r

    (4) Drag and drop that file into your iPhone’s GENERAL tab in Finder.

    Literally nothing else works. Follow all those steps or nothing will happen.

    Good luck.

    • Marcintosh says:

      (3) must have changed. I’m on Big Sur 11.5.2 and iOS 14.7.1 and just transferred a file with spaces. It worked fine.

  6. Tom says:

    This doesn’t work for me. I get a green plus sign to the right of the filename (indicating it will paste) when I drag it to the Finder window, but the ringtone never actually appears on the phone.

  7. Crista Lyn says:

    Bug Sure, thank you for your reply. By “media view”, did you mean being on the “Music” tab of the Finder window of the iPhone? If so, I tried that and could not paste anything into that window. Am I missing something?

  8. Crista Lyn says:

    This method was working before I upgraded to Big Sur. Not working now. Please update!

    • bug sure says:

      If you copy the ringtone and paste it to the selected iPhone in Finder in media view it works in Big Sur

      • Crista Lyn says:

        Bug Sure, thank you for your reply. By “media view”, do you mean clicking on the “Music” tab after locating the iPhone in a Finder window? I tried copying and pasting to that after your suggestion, but it did not work. :(

  9. Roy Pembroke says:

    I have the same result as Randall. Where is the iPhone sync window in the Finder?

  10. shelly says:

    Transfer tones and songs to your iphone from a mac:
    Plug in your iphone and open itunes.
    You will see the iphone listed in the left pane … drag the music and ringtones to the words “iphone” and wait a minute or two and these items will be on your iphone !
    The method above does not work anymore with BIG SUR operating system !

  11. Randall King says:

    This doesn’t work for me in macOS 11.0.1 and iOS 14.2. I get the plus symbol like it’s going to accept the files, but it doesn’t actually copy them over.

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