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The Basics: Copying ringtones, notifications and alarm tones to your Android

For most people around these parts, not having to use a program like iTunes to copy files to and from your Android is a good thing. We're used to the ease of drag and drop, and for the most part, it works really well. But not everyone has a grasp on it, and the idea that a phone can act (more or less) like a thumb drive is a bit difficult to grasp.

We can't really blame anyone, the fruit companies (Apple and BlackBerry) pretty much conditioned people to using a dedicated program on their computer to interact with their phones. Whether or not it was easier makes no difference, it's what a lot of folks grew accustomed to. It's high time to change that, and we'll start with the most basic task of all — adding sounds you can use for ringtones, notification tones and alarm sounds.

Setting things up may be necessary

Microsoft Windows is both the easiest and most difficult of the desktop (and oddly enough, that includes laptops) operating systems to set up for dragging and dropping files. Modern Androids use the MTP protocol to connect to your computer when you plug them in. It was developed and designed by Microsoft, and every version of Windows since XP has it enabled by default. If you're still using XP, you can set up MTP pretty easily by following the directions here (opens in new tab)

The problems arise when you install "helper" applications like Samsung Kies or HTC Sync. There's nothing inherently wrong with these programs, but if you're going to install and use them you need to use them every time, no matter how small the operation you plan on doing is. The like to interfere with the normal MTP mounting for a device. Our advice? Unless you want to use the backup abilities of these programs, skip them. Use the native file transfer built into your Android and Windows.

Android Central

For Mac users, it's pretty simple. MTP isn't enabled by default on OSX, so you need a small utility developed by Google called, simply enough, Android File Transfer. Grab that here and install it like you would any other program. Log out or restart your Mac, and the next time you plug an Android into your computer you'll see a Finder window open that shows the contents of your phone.

Linux, on the other hand, is a tough one. You can manually set up MTP if you know what you're doing, but results are mixed. Our advice here is to just use a wireless transfer utility like Airdroid. You'll thank us later.

Copying things over

Once you have things ready to go, and your Android is plugged in and you see the files and folders, you're ready to copy over your custom tones and sounds. On your Android, you'll see folders named Ringtones, Notifications and Alarms. These are exactly what you think they are. Copy the sounds you want to use for each into the respective folder, unplug your phone, and you should be able to select them from the menu where you're choosing your sounds. If they aren't in that list, restart your Android so the media scanner picks them up. Always try to use an .mp3 or .ogg file for these, as those are the file types Android uses natively. 

That's really all there is to it. It's really much easier than learning how to use iTunes effectively, and we won't even talk about the beast that is BlackBerry Desktop. Take a few minutes and be sure you have everything set up, and you'll soon be dragging and dropping files like a pro.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • i use Dropbox with these folders/sub-folders and then just sync it with my phone - Dropbox-->Personal-->Phone-->Media-->
    -Wallpapers this keeps my stuff safe in the Cloud and makes for an easy reinstall from the Cloud. easy and simple.
  • p.s. i use a similar method to keep my passwords, credit card, bank info, etc. i use a password protected MS Word File with Strong Encryption and OfficeSuitePro/Documents To Go. the beauty is you can open this file on any device in the world with MS Word or OSP/Docs To Go. OSP/Docs To Go supports Office 2007+ Super Strong 128 Bit Encryption/Password. i like the free-flow format and the open standard of an MS Word File. i don't like relying on some "mom and pop" locked black box proprietary closed format. and MS Word and OSP/Docs To Go is free if you already have it. i then use Dropbox and simply dump this Word file in my Dropbox so it is available to me from any device anywhere in the world and it is always updated and in sync.
  • MTP has been a disaster for me. Multiple computers at work and home running Windows 7 Professional/Ultimate, and MTP just doesn't work. Never installed Kies/Sync or any other type of helper application, not sure what's interfering. MTP and Linux is even worse, if that's possible. Funnily enough, PTP works fine in both Windows and Linux. Go figure. I usually end up using something like Airdroid. Dropbox sounds even better. Great suggestion.
  • What phone do you have? Nexus users frequently have problems because the Google USB drivers don't see a thing in MTP mode and only the camera-related folders in PTP mode. I've seen it suggested to hunt down the LG or ASUS drivers and use those. I ended up loading Airdroid and that works a treat.
  • Thanks for this Jerry! I know those who are in the dark about this stuff just saw the LIGHT :)
  • I'm amazed you even had to write this article...Drag-n-Drop is all I've ever used...
  • Me too. I was a PC user since before Windows and very accustomed to putting files and folders where I want. Long before there was an iPod I would drag & drop with MP3 players and cameras. I never liked sync software for those devices, so I never wanted an iPod or subsequent Apple device for that very reason. I would like it if the new Android devices would give us the SD card option like the SGS4 above... My HTC Evo LTE is the last HTC Android phone to have it, I think.
  • having used both eco systems for as long as Jerry, i have to say, i don't get the itunes hate. But then again, i still use iOS devices, and find them to be great, so i'm sure i'll be written off as some fanboy. There is simply no faster way to flash a phone and restore your photo's, put local music on your phone etc; then again, i have a mac, so i didn't have to use windows itunes, which i hear is way worse. if anything, Android suffers for not having such a device. Android file transfer fails to connect about 50% of the time for me; so i exclusively use my phones SD card for large local transfers, and my own servers for the rest of it's services (sftp/ webdav / plex / ip cam viewing / openvpn / etc) Although, on the flip side ~ since i only buy stuff with SD slots, since moving to ICS (where my card had to be reformatted) moving music and movies has been as simple as moving that.
  • I have an iPod touch (3rd gen), and iTunes is the reason I quit using the thing. Imagine this scenario (which happened to me repeatedly): 1) Found a new bang/song and decide I want to listen to it in the car as I'm about to leave.
    2) Grab the laptop, launch iTunes, plug in the iPod.
    3) Drag the music into iTunes, wait for it to convert it to AAC.
    4) Hit "Sync", wait 20 minutes for iTunes to do whatever the hell iTunes does for 20 minutes to copy *one* MP3 file to my iPod.
    5) Finally finishes, hit "Disconnect" grab my iPod and start walking out the door (since I'm now running late).
    6) Halfway down the stairs, I'm looking for the song on my iPod only to discover that it's not there for some reason.
    7) Run back upstairs, do the whole thing again, only to have it not appear *again*.
    8) Now I'm really late, pissed off, and I still won't get to listen to that song in the car. That's not even going into the problems I've had with creating an iTunes "backup" not being readable by iTunes on the new PC, so I had to completely rebuild the library. Or how much RAM it used up on my old laptop. Or the headache I had to go through because I didn't realize that every time I reinstalled Windows on my PC, iTunes counted it as a whole new computer and I hit my 5 PC limit. I get the idea behind iTunes, but I also think it's the absolute *worst* thing about the Apple ecosystem. My 6-year-old is now the only person who ever uses the iPod, and even he prefers to play games on one of my Android devices, because even he thinks the screen is too small. UPDATE: I should have noted in my little rant, that I am using the Windows version of iTunes.
  • I got a deal on an 1st gen iPad and was astounded at how user-unfriendly it is. After a few years of going to the Play store, picking an app and selecting which device I wanted to send it to, to discover that picking an app on the App Store site opens the 100+MB slab of bloatware, iTunes, seems so 2003. I was complaining to an acquaintance, a RABID iFanboy developer, about the need to install this fat program to do something that can be done with a browser and he absolutely refused to see the point, repeatedly yelping, "You have to have a browser installed to use the Gay Store, so what's the advantage for Crapdroid?" People already have browers on their computers. "So what's the problem with installing iTunes?" Why should we have to load a program to do one thing? "You have to install a browser." You can use a browser for something other than loading apps. "There's no difference." I had to walk away because I was about to get physically violent with the a-hole's circular illogic.
  • Any tips on hiding these sound files from say, Google play music, while still allowing the system to see them so they can be selected as alarm/ringtone/notification?
  • Tiuri,
    You can try WiFi File Explorer (I use the Pro version) to copy / paste your files as well or something similar. You can copy your alarm tones to:
    Atleast that's where they are on the Nexus4. Then you can set Alarm_GoodMorning.ogg as your alarm while you are at it. Posted via Android Central App
  • Answer to @Tiuri Elvander: Place an empty text file with the name .nomedia in a folder that has media files you want to hide. Media players and gallery programs will ignore the folder. You could still play the files if desired by selecting them yourself.
  • Thanks for the reply. I know about the .nomedia trick, but wouldn't that prevent the system itself from finding newly added alarm tone files?? So, when selecting an alarm tone, the newly added one wouldn't show up. Must admit, I've never tried it because I assume it won't work.
  • Both the current Ubuntu (13.04) and the upcoming 13.10 fully support MTP out of the box - no fiddling required!
  • I think the easiest way is: ES File Explorer File Manager
    MIUI File Explorer
  • I installed a proprietary file transfer app for a digital camera several years ago and had nothing but problems, ever since then I've done nothing by native drag~n~drop. The only thing I would suggest to a (new) user, would be to hold the right mouse button as you drag~n~drop the file, this will provide the user with an option of either copying or moving the file. David...
  • Tiuri, yours is the most relevant question made so far. How to prevent Notifications, Alarms and Ringtones from being included in the music apps without making them invisible to the Alarm apps.
    It is so sad that you got so an irrelevant reply.
  • Answer to @Tiuri Elvander: Place an empty text file with the name .nomedia in a folder that has media files you want to hide. Media players and gallery programs will ignore the folder. You could still play the files if desired by selecting them yourself.
  • No because sadly .Nomedia blocks the system from adding the notifications from the notification assignation menu.
    I'm also currently stuck with notification sounds (Pokémon game noises) playing in my Play Music shuffles. - not ideal.
  • My question is... Why using a computer to setup/configure another computer? The music was not born in your desktop. Your Android is a COMMUNICATION DEVICE guys! If your content is somewhere else, be it the vendor, your NAS, or god forbid, your desktop, then just use the same methods that you would use on a desktop to transfer it: windows file share, USB (on the go), cable, wifi, SD, Web serving app, the cloud. There is nothing special here, unless your mind is crippled by the iTunes trauma. For example, I but my music in Amaxon MP3 app, automatically download the files, locate them, and ready. No, I don't buy music ftom Google because they force me to use a desktop for downloading. Just for that reason. Desktop are for work. I don't want desktops around when on my leisure time.
  • Also note - make sure you're copying these to the device, not the SD card if so equipped.
  • I'm on a Nexus 4 which has an internal emulated SD card. I cannot edit the files in the root directory to create a new Media folder there. - at least not with EsFileExplorer..
    Any suggestions?
  • Gaaah don't get me started on BlackBerry Desktop. I have a couple of questions. Why when I select to move (not copy) a file from my Windows 7 desktop to my Nexus 4 does a copy of the file end up in the desktop bin? Also how do I get access to music I've purchased through the Play Store? When I plug in my device I can't find the music in any of the folders. Posted via Android Central App
  • Music purchased through the Play Store is stored on the Google servers and streamed everywhere. "how do I get access to music" if just playing the music, you need to use the "Play Music" app since other media players don't stream it.
    If you want an actual mp3 file, you go to the play music manager/library/player at and there is a download option there. Just select the songs and click download.
  • I thought when you select Keep On Device it has to be stored somewhere as the music is then available offline? Posted via Android Central App
  • That was pretty basic :P █████████████████████████████
  • This is absolutely the #1 reason I like Android. I hate iTunes and could never go that route. Android gives more freedom to to what I want to do.
  • Hey guys you could also just download it straight to your phone. Like the good morning alarm jerry recommended. Just download straight onto the phone, go into respective file manager, ( I even used a simple one like astro), go into download folder, long press on file, press move, back out and find alrm folder, open and paste. Bam. Go into clock open alrms and there it is.
  • Every HTC phone I had just popped up on the desktop (OSX) when plugged into USB. It wasn't until the Samsung that I had to deal with MTP, and it was not that straight forward. IF you have installed VZW install or kies, then good luck finding and deleting it all to then try and use MTP. I don't understand why it's that much more difficult for Samsung than HTC. HTC was plug and play.
  • I never use my USB to tranfer files from my PC to my phone or tablet. I just send everything over WiFi. I am used to using an FTP program like FileZilla to transfer files from my Mac to a remote server. I like the split screen with my local files in one screen and the remote files in the other. That way I can do things like set file permissions, overwrite exiting files, upload and download easily from one to the other. The only time I use the USB port on my tablet or phone is to upload from a thumb drive to the device.
  • Instead of restarting your device if the new files aren't picked up, you can use Rescan Media, nice little free app that kicks off the media scan process, no reboot required.
  • What's that case dressing the S4 in the photo?
  • One word : Airdroid. B-) // AC app on Nexus 7 //
  • I like it when it's plain English, simple. Thanks