Contents

How should I fold the protein?
What are the goals of Foldit?
Informational Questions
Technical Questions
Troubleshooting

How should I fold the protein?

Here are some basic principles to keep in mind when folding proteins. Different Foldit puzzles will have different objectives, but these basic principles apply to virtually all proteins.

1. Pack the protein. The smaller the protein, the better. More precisely, you want to avoid empty spaces (voids) in the structure of the protein where water molecules can get inside. So you want the atoms in the protein to be as close together as possible. Certain structures, such as sheets, will even connect together with hydrogen bonds if you line them up right and get them close together. This is also good. Key word: Compact.

2. Hide the hydrophobics. Hydrophobics are the sidechains that don't want to be touching water, just like oil or wax. Since most proteins float around in water, you want to keep the hydrophobics (orange sidechains) surrounded by as many atoms as possible so the water won't get to them. The other side of this rule is that hydrophilics (blue sidechains) do want to be touching water, so they should be exposed as much as possible. Key word: Buried.

3. Clear the clashes.Two atoms can't occupy the same space at the same time. If you've folded a protein so two sidechains are too close together, your score will go down a lot. This is represented by a red spiky ball (clash) where the two sidechains are intersecting. If there are clashes, you know something is wrong with your protein. So make sure everything is far enough apart. Key word: Apart.

For more guidance see the 10-part How to Foldit guide written by @joshmiller. Or browse the extensive community-maintained Foldit Wiki.

What are the Goals of Foldit?

The primary goal of Foldit is to advance research in protein folding. There are several different game modes that approach this goal in different ways.

Campaign Puzzles: The Campaign is meant to teach the basic concepts and tools needed to successfully fold proteins in the Science puzzles.

Education Puzzles: Education puzzles explain the science behind protein folding. Deep scientific understanding is not necessary to play Science puzzles, but curious players may find education puzzles informative. Education puzzles are also used frequently in school classrooms, helping to train the next generation of protein researchers.

Science Puzzles: Science puzzles reflect real problems in current protein folding research. When a researcher is faced with a tough problem, they may post that problem as a Foldit Science puzzle. Science puzzles are set up with a score function to assess how well your protein is folded, and may include special objectives depending on the research problem.

When you play a Science puzzle, you compete with other Foldit players to generate high-scoring solutions that satisfy the puzzle objectives. After the puzzle concludes (usually after one week) the researcher will gather all of the solutions from Foldit players for analysis. Sometimes this analysis is as simple as looking at the solutions to get new ideas about the problem; in other puzzles, the analysis will include real experiments that test Foldit solutions in the "wet lab."

Sometimes the analysis suggests how we change to puzzle to better reflect the research problem, and the researcher will post another round of the puzzle.

Informational Questions

Can I play Foldit on my phone or tablet?
No, Foldit only runs on computers with Windows, macOS, or Linux operating systems. Foldit cannot be installed on mobile operating systems like Android or iOS. This also means that Foldit cannot be played on Google Chromebooks.
What are the system requirements for Foldit?
The software installation requires about 800 MB of disk space. Foldit runs best with at least 4 GB of RAM. See the downloads page for supported versions of Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems.
Is this Folding@Home?
No, Folding@home is developed and operated by the Pande Laboratory at Stanford University and can be found here. It uses idle processing resources of personal computers. Foldit, however, uses active minds like yours to interact with puzzles. We are made by the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington.
I am an educator. How do I use Foldit in my classroom?
We have put together a set of instructions to assist you in setting up your students to play Foldit. Teachers can also create contests that are specific for your class and can only be accessed by your students.
What data are logged and analyzed by Foldit?
This is described by the Foldit terms of service and consent, which can be found here.
Who owns the protein and small molecule designs created in Foldit?
New proteins and molecules invented in Foldit may become intellectual property (IP). In the case that Foldit IP needs protection, the universities associated with Foldit may handle the patent application process, and contributing players will be considered co-inventors.
From the Foldit Terms of Service, section (g):

Individual players who contributed to the discovery will be considered co-inventors for any discovery produced through play. Data logs of player activity will assist in determination of attribution. Individual puzzles may specify further clarifications to this policy.

Some specific Foldit puzzles (usually those set up with a commercial partner) may be excepted. Results for these puzzles might be guaranteed in the public domain, and ineligible for patent protection. These exceptions will always be clearly-stated in the puzzle description. For an example of this, see the description of Puzzle 1440, part of the Aflatoxin Challenge collaboration with Mars and ThermoFisher Inc.
How is Foldit funded?
The Foldit project is funded largely by grants from the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH). Foldit also receives grants and donations from private philanthropy groups. Occasionally, Foldit collaborates with and/or receives support from commercial partners.
Where can I find videos explaining Foldit? Where is the Foldit YouTube channel?
The Foldit YouTube channel is here.
Can I work with you to produce a custom puzzle?
Yes, we do on occasion collaborate with others to create custom puzzles. Just follow the steps below and contact @agcohn821 for more information.

Technical Questions

What are "Evolvers" and "Soloists"?
The evolver rankings are for people who have worked on solutions shared with other people, and improved them.  The soloist rankings are for people who have worked on their solutions alone.
Why do some puzzles have "Beginner", or something like "(<150)", in their name?
These puzzles are the same as the puzzle with the same name and nothing extra in the name.  However, these puzzles can only be played by players with below a certain number of global points.
How do I connect to the global, veteran and group chats outside of the game?
The chat is actually an IRC server running on irc.fold.it. You can join the global chat (#global) without registering for now, but group chats are restricted. To join them, create a new account (such as myname_irc), join the group with it, and use the IRC nick and IRC key given on your user page. You can find the group channel name on the group page.

To authenticate to the IRC server, once you have joined, send a message to NickServ like:
/msg NickServ identify <irc-key>

Foldit uses IRC to manage its in-game chat. Anyone may connect to our IRC server either through game or through external IRC clients.

Okay, so how can I turn off chat?
Community member @jeff101 has written two great posts about this topic, located here.
Where can I find transcripts of the developer chat sessions?
You can find them here: Developer Chats
Where can I find the Foldit data files?
The data files are in different places depending on your OS:
  • Windows: in your installation directory (the default is C:\Program Files\Foldit\ or C:\Program Files (x86)\Foldit\)
  • Mac: Ctrl-click on the Foldit app and choose Show Package Contents, then go to Contents/Resources
  • Linux: in the Foldit directory where you installed Foldit
How do I try out the Foldit Developer Preview?
Locate your Foldit data directory (see previous question). Open the file options.txt and change the update_group variable from "main" to "devprev".
I've had enough of the Developer Preview! How do I go back?
In your options.txt file (see question on how to try out the Preview), just change your update_group variable back to "main" from "devprev".
Where are the release notes?
The release notes can be found in the data files directory, in the file cmp-resources-[current version]/release-notes.txt.
How can I help translate Foldit?
Visit this wiki page for more information.
How do I import/export/convert Foldit files to formats used by other programs?
For legal reasons, we do not support compatibility with file formats used by other programs, such as the PDB format.

Troubleshooting

The game starts but the graphics look incorrect in some way.
Two things can help. If you have a NVIDIA graphics card, try updating the driver by visiting their website. Otherwise, reducing hardware acceleration can often fix problems like this.  Here's how to on Windows:
On Vista, open up the Foldit directory under C:\Program Files\Foldit, right-click on Foldit.exe, and make sure the "Disable desktop composition" checkbox is checked.
I am unable to log in, I have tried many times and keep getting error messages.
This can happen if you attempt to skip application updates. Foldit uses a "rolling release" model, and does not support previously released versions. Start Foldit and let it update, then try again.
I am using a 64-bit Linux distribution and am unable to log in or contact the server in any way, I have tried many times and keep getting error messages.
You may need to install lib32nss-mdns. Please search for it in your package manager.
My computer overheats when running Foldit.
You can try adjusting your computer's power settings down. Changing to an option like 'power saver' may help with this issue. If you are running multiple copies of Foldit at once, try reducing the number of copies.
How do I delete my account?
Log in, click My Page at the top right, click Edit Settings, then scroll down and press Delete.