This is a disempowering time for most of us. The world is at war with the Coronavirus (aka COVID-19); there are doctors, nurses and medical researchers on the front lines, but you’re in your home office battling nothing more substantial than your to-do list. Fortunately, with a few spare CPU or GPU cycles, you can have some agency in this crisis and help us trounce our rivals at Anandtech at the same time.
Starting today, March 18th, at 10 am ET, Tom’s Hardware and Anandtech are participating in a fold off to see whose readers can register the most Folding@home work units before April 15th at 10 am ET. To join in the fight, all you need to do is install and run the Folding@home app on your computer while registering for the official Tom’s Hardware team, which is number #40051.
Both Tom’s Hardware and Anandtech have had folding teams for years, so to make this a fair fight, we are counting only the points earned between the start and end dates of this competition. As of March 18 at 10 am ET, Tom’s Hardware had 33,297,662,789 points and Anandtech had 40,450,303,145 so that's our zero piont. You can follow the competition on our stats page or subtract those old points from the overall total to know what our current score is in this fold-off. We’ll be posting periodically on our progress and you can also join the discussion in our official fold-off forum thread.
Caveat: Folding@home’s servers are being hit hard
Please note that Folding@home’s stats server is sometimes overwhelmed and returns Gateway errors when you are trying to see the point totals for either Tom’s Hardware (team 40051) or Anandtech (team 198) via Folding's site. However, the points are being recorded at all times and will also be visible on our own competition page (though it depends on Folding's server's to update the totals).
It’s also worth noting that sometimes your computer may have to wait a while to be assigned new work units. But don’t give up, because your computer will be assigned projects and the software will keep requesting them.
Run out of Stanford University, Folding@home is a massive distributed computing project that allows anyone with a PC or Mac to help with important medical research projects like the search for a Coronavirus vaccine. The project uses your computer’s spare cycles to simulate a process called protein folding, which is used by both viruses and human cells. By knowing how a virus such as COVID-19 operates, researchers can develop vaccines or other treatments.
Folding@home first launched in 2000 and is used in the fight against a wide variety of diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s. When you run the app, you’ll have the option to choose whether to participate in research for “Any Disease” or specifically Alzheimer’s, cancer, Huntington’s or Parkinson’s. Leave the setting at its default, Any Disease, to fight COVID-19. Not all workloads will be COVID-19 related, but even if your computer ends up on a cancer project for a few hours, you’re still helping and the points still count.
How to Install and Set Up Folding@home
The process is pretty self explanatory, but you can also follow the steps below:
1. Download and run the Folding@home installer. You can get it at https://foldingathome.org/start-folding/
2. Select Custom install during the install process.
3. Choose when to have Folding@home start when prompted. We recommend “Automatic start at login time” so it always runs when you boot.
The software will then take a minute or two to actually install. After you click finish and allow it to launch for the first time, you’ll see a screen open in your browser.
4. Click change identity.
5. Select a unique username.
6. Enter team number 40051 to join the Tom’s Hardware team.
7. Create and enter a new passkey by clicking the “Get a Passkey” link and following the instructions to have one emailed to you.
8. Click Save.
9. Choose how much power you want to devote to Folding@Home. Choosing Light interferes less with your work but is less productive. I used Full while writing this and saw no interruption.
10. Choose when you want Folding@home to work. We recommend “While I’m working” because it’s a lot more productive than “Only when idle.” If your system gets too sluggish or noisy, you can always dial back the power usage or change up the time that your system is folding.
Tips for Improving Your Folding@home Performance
1. Disable sleep and leave your PC on so you Folding@home runs in the background. Note that this will increase your electric bill to some degree--but it’s for a good cause.
2. Use Linux instead of Windows if possible. Linux tends to process Folding@home work units a bit faster.
3. Increase the Folding Core Priority to “Slightly Higher” by right clicking on the tray icon, selecting Advanced Control, clicking Configure and selecting “Slightly Higher” on the Advanced tab.
4. Increase the Checkpointing Frequency to 30 min from the default 15 min. This setting is also on the Advanced tab. Checkpointing saves work in case the program crashes, but it also slows the work down.