To get started playing Foldit, download and install the game using one of the links below. If you haven't already, create a Foldit account. Your Foldit account lets you log in to the fold.it web site and the game.
Please consider the Foldit Community Rules when picking a user name!
Download and install Foldit
Foldit runs on Windows (all versions since XP), macOS (10.7 or later), and Linux (64-bit).
Download and install the game using the following links:
After installing, use the Foldit desktop icon to start the game.
When Foldit starts, you'll see a message "Contacting server to check for updates...". The first time it runs, Foldit downloads a set up updates, and restarts after installing them. This can take a few minutes. After the first time, Foldit updates happen only a few times a year, to fix problems or add new features.
After the game has updated and restarted, you'll see a splash screen with with the game credits. Click the green "Start" button.
Each time it starts, Foldit checks for news. You can also see the latest news on the main page at fold.it.
After the news, you see the Foldit login screen. Log in with your Foldit username and password you created. (See create a Foldit account if you need a username and password.)
Click "Play Online". Foldit will say "Logging in..." and "Getting Puzzles...". The first time you start Foldit, the first intro puzzle loads automatically. After that, you'll see the Foldit main menu when you start the game.
The Intro Puzzles show what a protein looks like, and how you can use the tools in Foldit to fix common problems. Most of the intro puzzles can be completed quickly, and none of them should take more than a few minutes.
You can also get help through in-game chat. You'll probably see "Chat - Global" in the lower right corner of the Foldit window. You can expand the chat area by clicking on the triangle icon, allowing you to ask questions. Other players or Foldit's volunteer moderators may be able to help. (Some school groups may see only "Chat - Group", where you can get assistance from your classmates and instructors.)
If you get stuck, try resetting the puzzle using "Reset Puzzle" from the Actions menu in the lower left corner, or using the "control+R" keyboard shortcut.
There are a total of 31 intro puzzles arranged in 8 levels. Once you complete one level, the next level becomes available. You're not required to complete all the intro puzzles before starting the regular puzzles, but finishing the first five levels is highly recommended.
Skipping Ahead, Going Back
Intro Puzzle Menu
If you're playing the Intro Puzzles, the Puzzle Menu option takes you to the intro puzzle menu. The next puzzle that needs to be completed is highlighted. The puzzles you've finished are filled in. The upcoming puzzles are greyed out.
If you've already completed an intro puzzle, you can go back and play it again.
To see the other types of puzzles, click "Main Menu" at the bottom of the intro puzzle menu. This takes you to the Foldit main menu, which is where you normally land after starting the game and logging in.
The Main Menu has buttons for "Intro Puzzles", "Science Puzzles", "Contests", and "Achievements".
If you've closed Foldit and restarted, use the main menu to return to the intro puzzles. You can also try a science puzzle or a contests.
Science puzzles are where most of the activity in Foldit happens. Most of the science puzzles run for one week, but the ones marked as "beginner puzzles" normally run longer.
Contests are different than science puzzles in several ways. You must register for a contest using the "Contests" link on the main Foldit page. Most contests run for a much longer time than sciences puzzles -- some contests run for years. Some contests involve proteins that are much larger than the ones in science puzzles. Contests are created by Foldit players, generally the Foldit science team is not involved.
The biggest difference between science puzzles and contests is that players are ranked based on their science puzzle results. Contests are "for the love of the game", and don't contribute to rankings.
After the Intro Puzzles
Each science puzzle runs for a specified time, usually a week. When a science puzzle ends, players receive "global points" based on how well they did. The highest-scoring player gets 100 points on most puzzles. Foldit ranks all players based on their total global points, but the global points expire after 120 days.
To get started with science puzzles, go to the main Foldit menu, and click on "Science Puzzles". In the science puzzle menu, make sure that "Show beginner puzzles" is checked. You should see several puzzles that have titles starting with "Beginner Puzzle (<150)", meaning the puzzle is open to players with less than 150 global points.
The beginner puzzles run for several weeks at a time. You don't receive any global points until the puzzle ends. So pick a puzzle with less time remaining if you want to see results more quickly.
You can also participate in any of the regular science puzzles at any time. There's normally a "revisiting" puzzle available, which presents a puzzle from the early days of Foldit. The revisiting puzzles run for a week, and they're a good way to get started.
In addition to revisiting puzzles, there's usually a "design" puzzle running, which invites players to design a completely new protein from scratch. There's also often a "de-novo" puzzle, which ask players to fold a protein for which the sequence of amino acids is known, but the shape is not. Design and de-novo are generally quite a bit more challenging than revisiting puzzles.
See puzzle levels and types on the wiki for more on the different kinds of Foldit puzzles.
beta_helix created the previous version of this post, which lasted over six years.