In this blog post, I’ll show you how to quickly and easily get up and running with Folding@home, in the fight against COVID-19.
With the COVID-19 pandemic that is currently sweeping across the world, many of you, like myself, are wondering what can we do to help?
The good news is that there is something we can do, by donating some of the compute horsepower of our PC or laptop to a global initiative called Folding@home.
So what is ‘Folding@Home?’
It’s a global-scale distributed computing project that allows people to donate some, or all, of their compute processing power of their PC or laptop to medical research. It’s an initiative that has been around since the year 2000, currently helping eleven laboratories around the world, gain a better understanding and ultimately cures for diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, Hunters, Alzheimer’s, and more recently, COVID-19.
By using the computational power of your PC or laptop to perform statistical simulations, these laboratories can gain valuable insights into the dynamics of large, complex molecules called proteins. These proteins perform many functions that are associated with life.
Viruses, such as COVID-19 also have proteins, that are used to suppress our immune system and reproduce themselves.
By gaining a better understanding of how these viral proteins work, this provides medical research teams with valuable information needed to start designing possible vaccines or similar.
There are currently hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who are part of this initiative, which has the combined processing power of over 1 exaflop.
So how much is one exaflop I hear you say?
To give you an idea, there are one thousand petaflops to one exaflop (1000:1), with the world’s fastest supercomputer, called Summit, at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the USA achieving 148.6 petaflops.
As you can see, with the combined compute processing power of folding@home being over five times the compute capacity of Summit, this is one massive globally distributed super-computer!
How can I help and contribute to this worthy cause?
The good news is that it is very easy.
By simply downloading a small piece of software onto your computer, you can easily add your PC or laptops, CPU or graphics card’s computational power to perform protein simulations.
Let me show you how…
First, using a web browser, navigate to the Folding@Home website which can be found here: https://foldingathome.org/
Click on the ‘Start Folding Now’ button
Click on the round ‘Download Now’ button
Now download the installer by clicking on the link.
Once downloaded, start the install process by double mouse clicking on the downloaded installer file.
The Folding@home client setup wizard will now start. Click ‘Next’ to continue.
Review the license agreement if required, and click ‘I Agree’ to proceed to the next step.
‘Express install (Recommended)’ is selected by default. I’d recommend keeping this option, then click ‘Next’.
You will now see the Folding@home client installing, this doesn’t take long to complete.
Once the client has been installed, it is then up and running automatically and able to be accessed via the Windows tool bar (bottom right hand side of the screen).
Left mouse click the up arrow to review the running utilities, and you will see a colorful icon the same as the one indicated below.
You’ll now be presented with a menu of options for Folding@home. From this menu you can perform a number of tasks, such as the priority and how much compute resource you want to allocate to the Folding@home application running on your computer.
You can also choose when you want Folding@home to run, either when your computer is idle or have it run when you are using it.
One thing to be mindful of, if you are intending to let it run whilst you are still working on your computer, is that you would only want to run it at either ‘Light’ or ‘Medium’. If running Folding@home on ‘Full’, then you will likely start to find that your ability to perform on other tasks, starts to slow down and become delayed or even unresponsive – this is since you are allocating all your computer resources to folding.
Click on ‘Web Control’ to choose and assign your name to your Folding@home effort, and even join a team.
Follow these steps to do this.
You will now see the ‘Web Control’ screen, from this dashboard you can perform all the tasks you saw in the previous menu shown in the task bar, including information on what project your computer is currently contributing to.
From the ‘I support research fight’ drop down list box, you can see a list of the different diseases that you can channel your computers resources towards. If you want to choose COVID-19, then leave it at the default ‘Any disease’ setting.
We’ll now add your name, and if you’d like, add yourself to a Folding@home team which offers a friendly competitive element the folding experience.
Click on ‘Change Identity’.
From within the ‘Change Identity’ window you can enter your name, or alias, along with the opportunity to join a team. Click here for a list of the available teams.
Here are a couple of teams that I contribute my folding work units to:
Dell Technologies: 242558
I hope you find this Folding@home how-to guide useful and feel inspired to join the cause – thanks! 😊