Frequently Asked Questions

Rules of Foldit
Goals of Foldit
About Contests and Puzzles
General Informational Questions
Technical Questions about the game

What are the Rules of Foldit?

Here are the basic principles to keep in mind when folding proteins. Your score on each protein is based on how well you do with these three things.

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.

What are the Goals of Foldit?

Goals of the Intro Puzzles

The Intro Puzzles are meant to familiarize new players with the basic concepts and tools they'll need to start folding proteins in Foldit's Science Puzzles.

Goals of the Science Puzzles

The current series of Science Puzzles, the Grand Challenges, are meant to generate the evidence needed to prove that human protein folders can be more effective than computers at certain aspects of protein structure prediction. That's what all the puzzles in Foldit are about right now: predicting the structure of a protein based on its amino acid sequence. The three rules mentioned above describe the characteristics of correct protein structures.

Goals of Foldit

For protein structure prediction, the eventual goal is to have human folders work on proteins that do not have a known structure. This would require first attracting the attention of scientists and biotech companies and convincing them that the process is effective. Another goal is to take folding strategies that  human players have come up with while playing the game, and automate these strategies to make protein-prediction software more effective. These two goals are more or less independent and either or both may happen.

The more interesting goal for Foldit, perhaps, is not in protein prediction but protein design. Designing new proteins may be more directly practical than protein prediction, as the problem you must solve as a protein designer is basically an engineering problem (protein engineering), whether you are trying to disable a virus or scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. At the time this FAQ was originally written, it was a relatively new field compared to protein prediction.

You can learn more about the science of Foldit here: The Science Behind Foldit

Contests and Puzzles

What is the difference between a contest and a puzzle?
A contest is set up by players like you, and is not looked at, scored, or affiliated with our scientists here at the labs.

How do I set up a contest for other players?
To create a contest, go to the contest page and click "Create a Contest". You can select the type of puzzle, add a description, choose dates, and off you go!

You can read about the goals of our scientist puzzles in the section "Goals of Foldit".

Informational Questions

Q: Is this Folding@Home?

A: 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.

Q: I am an educator. How do I use Foldit in my classroom?
A: 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.

Q: What data are logged and analyzed by Foldit?
A: This is described by the Foldit terms of service and consent, which can be found here.

Q: Where can I find videos explaning Foldit? Where is the Foldit YouTube channel?
A: The Foldit YouTube channel is here.

Q: Can I work with you to produce a custom puzzle?
A: Yes, we do on occasion collaborate with others to create custom puzzles. Just follow the steps below and contact inkycatz for more information.

  • The submitter has to write up a short description of the problem that anyone can understand (ie why is this important?). The third paragraph here is an example.
  • If we share Foldit player solutions with the submitter, they agree to provide us (and in turn the Foldit Players) with feedback on your analysis of their predictions within 3 months, even if nothing comes out of it.
  • Presentations or publications referring to these Foldit solutions will acknowledge the Foldit Players, the Center for Game Science, and the Baker Lab at the University of Washington.

Technical Questions

Q: What are "evolvers" and "soloists"?
A: 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.

Q: What are "global points"?
A: When a puzzle closes, the players will be assigned global points based on their rank in the puzzle, and how much the puzzle is worth.  The points you receive for a puzzle will be added to your current global point total.  Your global point total will determine your overall rank on the site.  There are separate leaderboards for global evolver, soloist, and group scores. The current formula is:

  • X: Amount of points this puzzle is worth
  • R: Your final rank when the puzzle closed minus 1 [ex: rank 20 gives R=19]
  • N: Number of competitors minus 1 [ex: 275 competitors gives N=274]
    • Number of players for soloist and evolver scores.
    • Number of teams for group scores
  • Points = Max(1, RoundUp(((1 - R/N)^5) * X))

This may change in the future.

Q: Why do some puzzles have "Beginner", or something like "(<150)", in their name?
A: 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.

Q: How do I connect to the global, veteran and group chats outside of the game?
A: The chat is actually an IRC server running on 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 with the format: identify <irc-key>

/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.

Q: Okay, so how can I turn off chat?
A: Community member jeff101 has written two great posts about this topic, located here.

Q: Where can I find transcripts of the developer chat sessions?
A: You can find them here: Developer Chats

Q: Where can I find the Foldit data files?
A: The data files are in different places depending on your OS:

  • on Windows:
    • if you installed after 8/23/2011, they will be in your installation directory (the default is C:\Program Files\Foldit\ or C:\Program Files (x86)\Foldit\)
    • if you installed prior to 8/23/2011:
      • on Windows 7 and Vista at C:\ProgramData\Foldit\
  • on a Mac, Ctrl-click on the app and choose "Show Package Contents, then go to Contents/Resources
  • on Linux, it is in the Foldit directory

Q: How do I try out the Foldit Developer Preview?
A: Locate your Foldit data directory (see previous question). Open the file options.txt and change the update_group variable from "main" to "devprev".

Q: How do I try out the Foldit Kiosk Mode?
A: Locate your Foldit data directory (see previous question). Open the file options.txt and change the update_group variable from "main" to "kiosk". Kiosk mode is available in Windows only, and offers a limited set of features designed to be run at events and in museums.

Q: I've had enough of the preview! How do I go back?
A: 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".

Q: Where are the release notes?
A: The release notes can be found in the data files directory, in the file cmp-resources-[current version]/release-notes.txt.

Q: How can I help translate Foldit?
A: Visit this wiki page for more information.

Q: How do I import/export/convert Foldit files to formats used by other programs?
A: For legal reasons, we do not support compatibility with file formats used by other programs, such as the PDB format.


Q: The game starts but the graphics look incorrect in some way.
A: 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.

Q: I am unable to log in, I have tried many times and keep getting error messages.
A: Please don't skip client updates, even if you just downloaded the game. Start Foldit and let it update, then try again.

Q: 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.
A: You may need to install lib32nss-mdns. Please search for it in your package manager.

Q: How can I run Foldit on 32-bit Linux?
A: Unfortunately we do not support 32-bit Linux at this time. A workaround is to run the Windows version using WINE (

Q: My computer overheats when running Foldit.
A: 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.

Q: I am unable to log in, I have tried many times and keep getting error messages.
A: You may need to use a proxy.  Here's how to check:

Using Firefox:
Click the "Tools" menu.
Select the "Options..." menu item.
Choose the "Advanced" button (the one with a gear by it).
Choose the "Network" tab.
Click the "Settings..." button in the "Connections" box.
See if there is anything in the "Configure Proxies" box.

Using Internet Explorer:
Click the "Tools" button (the one with a gear by it).
Choose "Internet Options" from the menu that comes up.
Click the "Connections" tab.
Click the "LAN settings" button.
See if there's anything in the "Proxy Server" box.

If there is proxy information set, you will need to enter it in the game.

On the login screen, check the "Connect using proxy" box.
Enter the proxy information you found above in the format [url]:[port].
Try to log in.

Q: I cannot get into my group's chatroom in Foldit.
A: First, try going to your page, then Edit, then IRC (direct link). Check the box named "Fix IRC Group Chat Permissions" and hit Submit. Then restart Foldit and try again. If this doesn't fix the issue, please try again in two hours.

Q: How do I delete my account?
A: Log in, click My Page at the top right, click Edit Settings, then scroll down and press Delete.

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Developed by: UW Center for Game Science, UW Institute for Protein Design, Northeastern University, Vanderbilt University Meiler Lab, UC Davis
Supported by: DARPA, NSF, NIH, HHMI, Amazon, Microsoft, Adobe, Boehringer Ingelheim, RosettaCommons