July 8, 2020

macOS Catalina: How to Add Custom Ringtones to an iPhone (2020)

Custom iPhone ringtones have not seen much love from Apple over the last few releases of macOS and iOS. Now, with iTunes replaced in macOS Catalina, there is an easy way to move ringtones with drag and drop using Finder.

In this Tech Tips & Tricks guide, we explore a few different options on how you can transfer your own custom ringtones and use them on your iPhone in iOS 13.

No ‘Tones’ section in the Finder App on macOS Catalina

In macOS Catalina, the Sync feature in the Finder App does not have a section for Tones. Additionally, there is no ‘Tones’ folder anymore in your Music app either.

You can browse your Music and iTunes libraries on macOS Catalina by following these steps:

  1. Open Finder App on your MacBook.
  2. Click 'Go' at the top > Choose 'Go To Folder...'
  3. Type '~/Music' (without the quotes) to open the Music library on your Mac.
  4. Your GarageBand, iTunes, and Music folders are located here.

Since iTunes has been replaced in macOS Catalina with the new Music app and sync features in the Finder app, the process of moving custom ringtones from your Mac to iPhone isn’t as obvious as in iTunes.

But the good news is that it’s simple!

Just Drag and Drop your ringtones in macOS Catalina+

Moving your ringtones from your Mac running macOS Catalina+ is as easy as drag-and-drop!

Just Drag and Drop your ringtones in macOS Catalina+
  1. Connect your iPhone, iPad or iPod to your Mac.
  2. Open a new window in the Finder app on your Mac > Go to General tab.
  3. Open another Finder window and locate the ringtone files (m4r formatted) that you want to copy to your iPhone.
  4. Drag those m4r files from your Mac.
  5. Drop it on to your iPhone in the Finder app.

(* If it’s not working, make sure you drag and drop your .m4r to the Finder’s General tab for your device.)

If you use multiple iTunes libraries, be mindful that Apple recently provided a white paper in which they called out that multiple iTunes libraries are not currently supported in beta versions of macOS Catalina but the feature will be added later.

If the process of dragging a custom ringtone and dropping it to the iPhone in iTunes didn’t work, try the additional steps listed below.

Workaround to Transfer Custom Ring tones from your macOS Catalina

Some of our readers tried moving their custom ringtones from GarageBand on their Mac to their iPhones but we were not successful in syncing them.

The workaround that we used in order to transfer custom ringtones out of MacBook to the iPhone is by leveraging the iCloud drive / Files app option along with the GarageBand app for iOS. GarageBand app has been enabled to use iCloud in settings.

The basic idea is to share the custom ringtone from your MacBook with your iPhone running GarageBand. Once it is available in iOS GarageBand, we export it as Ringtone to the iPhone’s contact app.

Let’s get started and put a little elbow grease to this workaround!

Send the custom ringtone file (.m4a, .m4r) from your MacBook to yourself via email or use the Finder app on your MacBook.

Send the custom ringtone file (.m4a, .m4r) from your MacBook to yourself via email or use the Finder app on your MacBook.

Please follow the steps below to transfer these custom ringtones onto your iPhone running iOS 13.

1. Tap the ringtone attachment from your email.

2. Tap the Share icon at the bottom left of your screen.

3. Choose 'Save to Files.'

4. Move the downloaded ringtone into the folder ‘GarageBand File Transfer.’

5. Next, open GarageBand App on your iPhone > Tap the ‘+’ icon.

6. On the next screen, choose ‘Audio Recorder’ as the Tracks type.

7. Tap Tracks at the top of your screen.

8. Next, tap the loop icon at the top right corner of your screen.

9. The ringtone that you moved earlier via Files is now available here.

10. Touch and hold the ring tone and drag it as a track.

11. Your Ringtone is imported as a track.

12. Tap on the downward arrow icon > Select ‘My Songs.’

13. Your ringtone is saved automatically as ‘My Song.’

14. Tap Select > Choose ‘My Song.’

15. Choose 'Share' from the options.

16. Tap 'Ringtone' > Choose 'Export.'

17. Select 'Use Sound as...' > Choose the type of ringtone you would like > Tap Done.

18. Choose between standard Ringtone, Text or assign directly to Contact here.

Your Ringtone is now exported and you can access it from your Contacts App.

How to assign custom Ringtone to a Contact in iOS 13

This process has not changed in iOS 13. Open your Contacts app on your iPhone and select the contact that you want the new custom ringtone to be assigned to.

>>> How to assign custom Ringtone to a Contact in iOS 13

You can also use this process to change the default ‘text tone’ of any contact on your iPhone.

Tip: If you are working to create your own custom ringtones in Garage Band on macOS Catalina, when you are ready to export the ringtone project out of macOS Catalina, click Share > Project to GarageBand for iOS and the ring tone will be readily available on your iPhone when you open up GarageBand.

Can’t add new ringtones after updating your macOS?

The workaround is to first remove all existing tones from your iPhone, restart your phone, and then import your ringtone again using either the drag and drop method or the custom ringtone workaround mentioned in this article.


We hope that this step-by-step workaround was helpful to you. Although this process works great in transferring out custom ringtones from macOS Catalina or the ones you download from the web, it is probably not the ideal solution when it comes to transferring a batch full of custom ringtones.

Feel free to chime in with some of your favorite tips and tricks when it comes to transferring or syncing custom ringtones from your MacBook.

Source: AppleToolBox