Apart from being anxious and worrying about what to do about Covid-19, you might be wondering if you can do anything to help. It turns out that you probably can do something, if you have one or more computers available. You can donate their idle CPU and GPU resources to Folding@Home.
Most people who are data professionals have one or more personal computers that they own, that are often idle. Many people have older machines literally sitting in a closet or basement, gathering dust. If you have some underused or idle machines available (that you own), you can do something useful with them.
Folding@Home is a distributed computing project for disease research that simulates protein folding, computational drug design, and other types of molecular dynamics. It uses idle CPU and GPU resources of personal computers around the world.
This project was developed under the leadership of Dr. Vijay Pande at Stanford University. It was originally released in October 2000, so it has been around for a while. The results from this project have been used for research on various diseases, producing many peer-reviewed papers.
We need your help! Folding@home is joining researchers around the world working to better understand the 2019 Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) to accelerate the open science effort to develop new life-saving therapies.https://foldingathome.org/2020/02/27/foldinghome-takes-up-the-fight-against-covid-19-2019-ncov/
How It Works
Similar to SETI@Home (which is shutting down), you download and install a client on your machine. There are separate clients for Windows, macOS, and several different Linux distributions. You should do a custom install rather than an express install, so that you can more easily configure how the client will operate.
Once the client is installed, it will connect to the Folding@Home servers and download a work unit (WU). Your machine can use both your CPU and GPU resources, separately, to complete a work unit and send it back to the servers at Stanford.
You have a decent amount of control over how the client works. It can be configured to only run when your machine is idle (from a CPU perspective) or while you are working.
There is also a FAHControl advanced control client that gives you many more configuration options. It lets you do things like have remote access to multiple client machines for example.
If you are interested in running Folding@Home, you can pick what types of work it will do. You can choose between Any, Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Huntington’s, or Parkinson’s. If you choose “Any”, then there is a chance that you will be doing work on covid-19.
You can donate your computer time anonymously without being on a team or you can have a user name without being on a team. If you want, you can be on a team and still be anonymous, or, you can join a team and have a user name. This is all explained here.
I have a created a team called SQLFamily that has a Team Number of 236388. If you are so inclined, I would appreciate it if you joined the team, so your credits show up there.
I think this is a worthy cause, regardless of what types of work your machine does. Be warned, your machine(s) will use more electricity and likely be significantly louder while running Folding@Home. I also want to caution you about running this software on any machines you don’t actually own! For example, machines at work or at school. That is a quick way to get yourself in trouble.
On the other hand, if you have some spare CPU and GPU horsepower sitting idle, maybe you can give it a try! So far, I have this running on three machines. I’ll be running it on a few more, since I have several more pretty modern “lab machines” down in my basement. Some of these are actually quite new, since I built several AMD Ryzen systems over the past few months.