My wife told me today, to share online some of the information I've learned about folding and hardware, so that people starting out would get an easier launch into folding, and it would benefit the community as a whole.
I myself have been active on the Folding community since 2008; but have seriously started folding recently, and have passed through a good 10 graphics cards along the way; and thought of sharing some of that info.
Aside from folding in the library, or at work, doing CPU folding, or using older hardware that's available to you,
Some people desire for folding more efficiently. Perhaps get more points, perhaps lower the electricity bill?
Whatever the reason, you're in the market for some new hardware, but where to start?
I hope this post will help you!
While CPU folding is still done today, it's generally seen as inefficient.
If you'd like to fold, you'll need a (preferably recent, or modern) dedicated graphics card to do the work for you.
Aside from that, folding doesn't use much computer resources.
It is recommended to have at least 1 CPU core available per graphics card you run, and a 2Ghz CPU for mid-tier cards ($50-$350), to 3Ghz for the top tier (currently fastest, $350+) graphics cards; as well as at least 1 available PCIE16x slot, but preferably 2.
Anything from a $50 graphics card, will accelerate folding greatly over most traditional CPUs.
Usually, the more expensive, the better the card is for folding; but also the higher the cost of electricity to run it all.
The first thing you need to determine, is "What kind of folding will you want to do?"
- Folding occasionally
- Folding frequently or continuously
The occasional folder, will have the least restrictions to worry about, and benefit most, from the cheapest hardware.
Generally speaking AMD makes great cards, that offer quite good performance per dollar, and cost less in initial price, but do use more electricity while folding (as of 03/2019
Nevertheless, if you still are using your graphics card(s) for other purposes, perhaps it's still good to continue reading!
Similar Nvidia cards are slightly more expensive than AMD, but generally are easier to control, and have lower power consumption.
These cards are more suited for people folding either often, or continuously (or for those who use their cards for long duration for other purposes).
If you are an occasional folder, and are on a budget, I could recommend AMD graphics cards, of the newest generation; though I could certainly also recommend Nvidia if you pay your own electric bill!
As for the rest of the sysem, almost anything goes.
Windows, Linux,... For the person folding occasionally, restrictions of those folding continuously might outweigh the benefits; so buy what you like, and can afford!
If you fold for free (don't pay for electricity), you might only be concerned about the cost of the initial purchase.
But for most of us, the main cost of folding is not paying for the hardware, but paying for the extra cost of electricity while folding.
And I think this is the most important factor to factor in, especially for those who fold regularly to continuously!
What is your planned monthly electric bill (yes, what are you willing to PAY for folding, every month)?
If for instance, you are ok with paying $1 per day extra (~$30/month) to folding, you will be looking at a ~300Watt system.
A 300Watt system running 24/7, all year round, costs about $360 a year on electricity in most places.
More, if you're living in warmer areas, and you'll need to run additional AC.
Less if you can deduct that extra heat from whatever is currently heating your home.
If you live in a cold climate, have your PC keep your home warm instead.
If you live in a hot climate, and have a balcony, or some small room with connection to outside, run it there; so the heat will not be introducing extra cooling cost in your home.
If for instance $300 fits in your annual folding budget on electricity, you will want to focus your hardware in that direction.*Edit: Do know I'm aiming for moderate rigs here. People running multiple (3 or more) graphics cards, like RTX Titans or RTX 2080 Tis, probably have different system needs.*
First start with a power supply. Most power supplies will run most efficient at half their max load, so for 300W you'd be best looking at any 500-650Watt power supply ($52)
, as long as it has at least a Bronze 80+ certification. Not only does it run most efficiently around 50% load (meaning lower power bill), but it also gives you some headroom, in case you do decide to run a heavier or additional graphics cards later on.
For a case or rack, they sell plenty of good solutions. I myself went with this $35 rack
. It keeps the graphics cards cooler, and is more affordable than a case. You will need a power switch ($4,5)
with a rack, to turn on or off your system.
For a CPU, I would currently recommend to go with an Intel Core i3 8100
processor, because they're energy efficient, and fast little processors, at a great price! In some cases, you can run the primary monitor from the integrated graphics, while any additional card is used 100% for folding; but some systems require the monitor to be plugged in the primary dedicated graphics card.
Pair this with a cheap motherboard with at least 1x PCIE16x slot ($70)
, or 2x PCIE16x sized slots ($91)
. 2 is better. A third available PCIE 1x slot is even better!
For RAM, DDR4 of any speed ($29)
goes, as folding doesn't require fast RAM, nor is there any measurable performance penalty for not running dual channel.
For an operating system, I would recommend a Linux (FREE) of your liking, I myself use Lubuntu
, but there are others supported (Ubuntu, Slax, Debian, Redhat, Fedora, CentOs, or more). When they support .deb or .rpm packages, they should be able to run FAH.
Linux is just a tad more efficient than Windows for Folding at the moment (and is free).
Also don't forget to install the latest Graphics drivers.
For any additional support, you can always visit the Folding at home forum
, or their main website with instructions
Graphics cards give the highest efficiency for folding.
If you want to stay around the 300Watt mark, the 'best' option (if initial purchase cost wasn't an issue) would be running a single RTX 2080 ti ($1400)
, but not everyone has that kind of money to invest in.
I would recommend starting out with a pair of RTX 2060 ($350)
cards, and/or add the second card later.
The 2060 is simply the most bang for the buck, as well as scored highest on performance per watt per dollar of all the GTX and RTX cards!
- 2x RTX 2060 cards can fold about 2 years long, before they use up the $700 of difference between them and a single RTX 2080 ti card on initial price.
- 2x RTX2060 cards also can out-fold a single 2080 ti card (2 are more powerful than 1).
Folding using 2x RTX 2060 cards use about 390Watts on the wall, while a single 2080ti card uses about 300Watts on the wall.
But it would still take about 15 years of folding, before these 2 cards would break even through the cost of electricity!
The one I would recommend below the RTX 2060, would be a pair of GTX 1660 ti ($280)
cards, slightly cheaper but also slightly lower in terms of efficiency (PPD/$$$ or PPD/Watt) than the RTX 2060. Still, this card will perform admirably in case your total system power limit is closer to 200W!
Performance per $$$ they're on number 2.*Edit: Since this card is so new, there has been no PPD rating out yet for this card at the time of it's writing.
However score can be calculated based on GPU speed and cores*
Setting the limit even lower (150W), and I would probably recommend a single RTX 2060, or a GTX 1660 ti (power-capped)
If however, you have slightly more money to spend than the 2060, and more power reserve than 300W, I would recommend the RTX 2080 ($799)
. Though slightly lower PPD/$$$, this card performs admirably when power-capping this card in PPD/Watt!
Both the 2080 and 2060 together, could easily run on a 500 Watt power supply, especially if you can cap the power (see below) on the cards to the minimum, and max out the PPD per watt (2,5M PPD uncapped), all while staying $300 below a single RTX 2080 ti (2,1M PPD).
There are 3 ways to look at folding with a GPU; and in it, lies the 'secret ingredient' of those who fold:
- Folding stock
- Folding overclocked
- Folding "underclocked"
Rather than running a slower performing card stock, or overclocked; it is often better to run a higher power card "underclocked", or more precisely, 'power-capped'.
And even better, is to run an additional graphics card, also power-capped!
What you're basically doing, is restricting the power to the graphics card (easy in Linux), which will increase folding efficiency.
The theory behind this idea, is that the higher you run GPUs, the more power they need, the higher heat they generate, and the lower their efficiency will be.
Likewise, the lower you cap the power on cards, the less heat will be generated, and the more efficient they will become.
The benefit of power-capping a higher performing card
, is that it gives you overall better PPD/Watt
than running a slower card at stock or OC speeds; and quite often the capped higher performing card, will still net more PPD than a slower card overclocked.
The benefit or running 2 lower powered cards VS 1
higher powered card, is won in higher PPD/$$$
, as in some cases 2 lower performing cards are cheaper to buy, than 1 higher powered, more expensive card; all while still attaining the same (or better) PPD.
(like for instance, at below 300Watts, combining 2x RTX 2060 cards is much more economical, and has a higher performance than running 1x RTX 2080 ti).
And third benefit is the resale value. If 2 cards of each $350 will be sold a year later, they will be sold for ~$175 each (~50% of new price); with a loss of $350 (plus any additional shipping (usually $10-20/card, and website listing fees if any).
If the more expensive $1400 card is sold 1 year later at 50% of the new price, it is sold with a loss of $700.
For this reason I don't recommend getting the most expensive card on the market, but try to balance which cards you will want to run; to your set goals of power consumption;
And also taking in consideration the electric cost on those cards while power capping them is lower than when running them stock!
Install your fastest card in the primary PCIE slot, and your slower card in the PCIE slot further away from the CPU, leaving any PCIE1x slots and especially those furthest away from the CPU, for the slowest cards.
In most cases, most systems would benefit from no more than 3 or 4 cards at a time, as most Intel chips only allow up to 16x PCIE lanes.
Running 3 cards, and the system will allocate 1 card to run at 8x speed, the second at 4x speed, and any additional card only at 1x PCIE bus speed.
In the case of Nvidia cards, 3 cores will be used for feeding 3 graphics card; while 1 core will remain unused, for background tasks.
It will slow your system down, if you'd use 4 cards on a 4 core system.
Also for Nvidia, hyper threading cores don't count as a full core. In other words, a dual core CPU, with hyper threading (4T), might be running at 100% utilization, even when running only 3 graphics cards!
For faster systems (RTX 2060 and above), it is recommended to preferably run your cards at PCIE 4x speed the least; and 1080 ti / 2080 cards or higher, at PCIE 8x speeds; to see the best performance; though PCIE 1x speeds do still work quite well on faster cards.
At the time of this writing, RTX 2060 cards are seen as the cheapest, best performing cards.
Running 1x card power capped to 125W, and your system consumption is well below 200W at the wall. 325W for 2x 2060, and 450W for 3x 2060 cards.
If you're looking to fold at maximum PPD, the choice of cards is obvious. Get the fastest ones, no power cap on them!
You'll usually be only limited to the socket that provides the power (1500W).
And for larger systems limited to whatever the power socket provides, post below makes clear that about 11x 2060 cards is the cheapest way to go (at about 10-11M PPD).
The only way to get more PPD per watt, is to get higher performing cards (like 2080, or 2070) power capped at 125W; but the initial purchase price will go up tremendously, with each additional card!
Hope this post gave some food for thought.
post edited by ProDigit - 2019/03/06 12:43:45