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Published on 09.18.06 by Brent Trahan

How-to Help Find a Cure for Diseases with Your Computer’s Unused Processing Time

Put your computer’s idle processor(s) to work and help find cures for Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Huntington’s, and Osteogenesis Disease with the [email protected] distributed computing project.

The Pande group at Stanford has a project called [email protected] which uses distributed computing technology and people like you who donate their computer’s unused processing time to find cures for Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Huntington’s, and Osteogenesis Disease.

Distributed computing works by taking a problem and splitting it up in many small parts then giving the smaller parts to many computers to calculate (or fold).  The [email protected] project has created the largest super computer in the world and has already started producing very promising results.

When you run the [email protected] software on your computer every unused processor clock cycle will be used to calculate part of a problem.  While you’re running the software your processor will run at 100%.  You don’t have to worry about your system getting bogged down because the [email protected] software takes the lowest priority possible when using the processor.  It only uses unused processing time that would otherwise go to waist.

You can help find a cure by donating your computers unused processing time.  There are around 500,000 computers currently participating in the project.  Sony has just announced the upcoming PS3 will be able to run the [email protected] software as well.

How to Participate

You can participate by downloading the [email protected] software and installing it on your PC or PS3.

You have a choice of installing a graphical client or a text-only (DOS) client.  This software works with Windows, Mac, Linux, and the PS3.

Install the Graphical Client (Windows)

The first thing you need to do is download the software from the downloads page.

When the software has finished downloading choose to run it. The software will install just like any other software. You have to give it a unique user name during the installation.


When it’s finished installing you can actually see the problem you’re working on by double-clicking the red star looking thing next to the time on your desktop.

You can change any settings (like your team number or any of the other settings mentioned below) by right-clicking the red star looking thing and selecting configure.

Install the Text-Only Client (Windows)

The text-only version is my favorite.  Once you set it up it runs as a service and you can forget about it.

Create a folder in your C:\ drive called Folding.  This is where all the work will be done and saved.  You can create a folder anywhere on your computer and name it whatever you like to run the software in if you want.

Download the text-only version of the [email protected] software in the downloads page.  Save the file in the Folding folder in your C:\ drive.  It is very important to save the file and not run it after downloading.

Open the Folding folder in your C:\ drive and run the file you just saved in it by double-clicking it.


A DOS looking box will appear and ask you a few questions before it can start.  The first question is a unique user name.  Once you typed your user name press enter.


The next question is what team you want to be on.  If you want to be on MAXIMUMpcguides team type the number 51132.  If you don’t want to be on a team, type 0. Press enter after you type your team number.


The next question asks you if you want this software to be installed as a service and to automatically start when Windows starts.  Choose yes if you want this (type yes and press enter).  I recommend choosing yes so that every time you boot up your computer it gets right to work.


If you want this software to ask before it gets more work to do when it’s finished a problem type yes.  I recommend telling it no and let it get new work on its own.


The next question asks you if you want it to use Internet Explorer’s settings to connect to the internet to get and send work.  Choose yes.


The next question asks if it can work on problems where the results will be greater than 5MB in size.  If you choose to let it calculate large problems it will also take more memory while it’s calculating.  If you have a system with a Gig (1024MB) of RAM or more I would choose yes.  If you have less than a Gig of RAM choose no.


The next question asks you if you want to change advanced options.  Some of those options are setting what percentage of the processors unused processing power you want to use (the default is 100%), the amount of RAM you want it to think you have, or multiple IDs if you are running multiple clients at the same time (for Core Duo 2  and higher Processors).  You don’t have to change the advanced options if you don’t want.  If you do, type yes and read on.  If not, your computer will start folding once you type no and press enter. I would wait about 5 minutes and then restart your computer to get rid of the DOS box.


The first advanced question is the core priority.  Choose to run at idle.  If you change it to low some software might not run because the [email protected] software would compete for processing time with the software.


The next question is the amount of idle processing time you want the software to use.  I say go with all 100% baby!


Disable highly optimized assembly code?!?  I don’t know what that is.  I would just go with the default (no).


The next question asks if your battery is getting low it will stop folding or not.  If you are folding on a notebook (I don’t recommend this) I would say yes.


The next question asks how many minutes you want it to wait before it saves its progress.  I like to set it at 15 minutes.


The next question asks if you want to request work units without deadlines.  Normal work units (problems you computer solves) take about two days to complete.  Most work units have deadlines for when they can be returned.  If you have a slow computer you can choose to only work on work units that don’t have deadlines.


Newer computers have multiple processors.  If you have multiple processors you can run as many instances of the [email protected] software as the number of processors you have.  If you choose to run multiple instances of the software you have to give each instance a machine ID number.  I would give the first one an ID of 1 and the second an ID of 2.

If you want to run multiple instances of [email protected] at once, run each instance in a different folder and give each instance a unique ID. You’ll need to run this install for all the instances of [email protected] you run.

Please note: Hyper Threading (HT) processors are not considered true dual processors.  They only give the allusion of dual processors to the operating system.  You should not use two instances or the [email protected] software with HT processors.


Now that you’ve set all the settings up you computer will get to work.  I would wait until you see the bottom line in the screen shot above and then X out the window.  After that you should restart you computer for the service to start again in the background instead of in a DOS window on you desktop.

More Information

If you want more information about the [email protected] project check out the official [email protected] website or the official [email protected] forum.

Spread The Word

There are only about 500,000 computers folding world wide.  Those 500,000 computers make up the largest super computer in the world.  Do you know how many total computers there are world wide?  Imagine if all of them were folding too.  Think of the possibilities.

Help get the word out about the [email protected] project and let others know about it.

Still need help? Ask your computer question now.

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4 Responses to “How-to Help Find a Cure for Diseases with Your Computer’s Unused Processing Time”

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  1. Matt says:

    Nice post! I used to use some distributed computing software to cure some disease. I will definitely check this one out! Just stopping by from the ProBlogger Group Writing Project.

    Why do you use nofollow? Just curious…

  2. Brent Trahan says:

    This site is powered by WordPress. By default WordPress gives links in comments the nofollow attribute. I had a bad comment spam problem in the past and decided to let it be known to comment spammers that their links will not be followed by the search engines. It’s just a creative way to combat comment spam.

  3. MamaDuck says:

    Interesting idea! Our list is up as well if you’d like to check it out!!

  4. Jersey Girl says:

    I popped over from Problogger…I didn’t know about this kind of stuff..interesting read.

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