Use spare processing power for science

Dec 15, 2008
Updated • Dec 10, 2012

A computer's processor and RAM are often not fully used, especially, for example, at nights when files are being downloaded or when it is locked by a user. Instead of allowing it to go to waste, one can donate their spare computer resources to numerous projects which use BOINC. It needs to be noted that donating processing power will result in a higher electricity bill as the computer is using more power when it is running on full speed.

BOINC allows people to give a certain percentage of their computer's resources to different causes, which you can selected actively. This saves these projects from having to buy a supercomputer, as small parts of what has to be processed are sent to thousands of computers which process them instead. It is a grid of connected home computers so to speak that is donating processing power to scientific research projects. This software is available for Windows, Linux and OS X.

About 25 projects utilise BOINC, ranging from projects which find prime numbers, the future of our planet's climate, aliens (the famous SETI@Home project) and even proteins which could fight diseases like HIV.

After BOINC is installed, you must associate yourself with the projects you are interested in and create an account. Each project with which a user registers records all of that user's activities and places them in a league table for the amount they've processed. Users can associate multiple computers to an account and join groups, which then compete against other groups just like individual users compete against each other.

BOINC allows users to choose the proportion of resources dedicated to certain projects and ensures more powerful computers get more credit than less powerful, slower ones.

Certain projects have attractive visualisations too, which depict the information being processed. SETI's can be used as a screensaver, which shows which parts of the radio telescope's data is being analysed.

Some problems with BOINC are its power consumption, which can deteriorate a laptop's battery, and that it makes computers hotter and consequently noisier. The GUI is also quite confusing!


Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. Grant said on December 21, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Kislay: What on earth do you mean waste of time? If you have nothing useful to say, don’t say anything.

  2. Daniel Pataki said on December 18, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Ah, I used to love the seti@home project so much. I spent like hundreds of hours of pc time on it. I didn’t like that they changed their underlying engine to Bionicle, I too think its very confusing. I haven’t been heloing out since, but perhaps its time to start again :)

    Kislay, why is this a waste of time? You can set it to only run when the pc is idle, so it won’t take up your CPU while working and its sort os set and forget.

    I used to watch the cool visuals for ages though :)

  3. Kislay Kishore said on December 17, 2008 at 7:36 am

    Why do u waste ur time for such things!!!!

  4. jonom said on December 16, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    Carolina, BOINC is free software. No need to win it!

  5. Lipsync said on December 16, 2008 at 8:14 am

    Not only extra cpu cycles can be donated but also extra bandwidth. Take a look at this distributed Crawling project Majestic-12 these people have already passed yahoo in backlinks survey.

  6. Carolina Johnson said on December 15, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    I’d like to win this to let us have a certain percentage of my pc’s resources to different causes, whichever me or my family selects!

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.