SARS-CoV-2 with an X over it.

Want to help in the battle against the novel coronavirus? You can put your PC’s graphics processor to work with Folding@home. You’ll join an army of computers running calculations to help scientists understand the virus.

How Folding@home Works

Folding@home is a distributed computing project that’s been around since the year 2000. It’s named after “protein folding.” If you install the software and join a project, it will run in the background and use spare graphics processing (GPU) power to run calculations. Your PC will be one of the hundreds of thousands of PCs running these calculations, all working together.

The software has previously been used to help find cures to cancer, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, influenza, and many other diseases. Now, Folding@home is helping scientists understand the structure of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. As Folding@home director Greg Bowman explains, a better understanding of the virus could aid in the development of life-saving drugs.

In other words, you can put your PC’s GPU to work crunching numbers that will help scientists better understand and fight the novel coronavirus. You can read specifics about how Folding@home is “simulating the dynamics of COVID-19 proteins to hunt for new therapeutic opportunities” on the project’s website.

This work is GPU-dependent and requires NVIDIA or AMD graphics hardware. It will work best on computers with powerful graphics hardware.

How to Put Your GPU to Work With Folding@home

To put your PC to work battling coronavirus, download the Folding@home installer and run it to install the software. It’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. We’ll show how it works on Windows here.

Once you’ve installed the Folding@home software, you’ll be taken to the page, where you can control the software on your PC. You can choose to fold anonymously or set up an identity.

If you set up an identity, you can track your work and earn points. You can even join a team with other people and compete to see who can earn the most points—just a bit of friendly competition.

However, you don’t need to set up an identity—you can just select “Fold as Anonymous” and click “Start Folding” to begin.

Choice of anonymous or identity in Folding@home

To ensure you’re helping with COVID-19 research, ensure “Any disease” is selected under the “I support research fighting” box. This is the default option. With it enabled, Folding@home will prioritize work related to the novel coronavirus.

Work may not be available immediately, and your client may work on other diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer, Huntington’s, or Parkinson’s while waiting for COVID-19 jobs. Leave it running in the background, and it will automatically start any available work.

Selecting COVID-19 research in Folding@home

The Folding@home software will remain running in the background—even when you have the web page closed. It will automatically use any spare resources and get out of the way when you’re using your GPU for other purposes, like playing a PC game.

Look for the Folding@home icon in your computer’s notification area (system tray) to find options, pause it, or quit the software and prevent it from running.

If you decide you no longer want to participate, head to the Uninstall or change a program list in Windows and uninstall the “FAHClient” program.

Controlling the Folding@home software from the Windows notification area

Even NVIDIA has called for gamers to install Folding@home and donate any spare computing power they might have. Computers all over the world are joining the fight.

For more information, take a look at this FAQ about the SARS-CoV-2 projects in Folding@home. You’ll also find updates on Folding@home’s news page.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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