There are three software components that are required for folding. A client, a work unit (WU), and a core.
First, the client is the software that you initially download from the folding@home website in order to start folding. It is your interface to the other two components. There are both CLI (command line interface) and windowed options for most popular operating systems.
Second, the WU is a segment of a folding operation. Folding@Home works by taking a protein simulation and breaking it into small, manageable pieces. These seeds to start the mini-simulations are sent out to other computers when the client requests them.
Finally, the core is what takes care of the actual simulation of the protein folding. It is the piece of software that does the heavy lifting, execution-wise. It is automatically downloaded from the F@H servers for given subtypes of WU.
So, in brief, the folding process goes like this:
- User downloads and installs client software.
- User starts up client software.
- Client software requests WU from the F@H server.
- Once WU is received, client downloads required core if not already present.
- Execution begins.
- Once execution is completed, client transmits completed WU back to F@H servers and requests a new one. (Start again from step 3)