The Windows 10 Sandbox is among the best features Microsoft has rolled out for its platform in recent years. Essentially serving as a virtual machine, Sandbox allows users to run applications in a secure environment. Microsoft says it is now leveraging Sandbox for its Folding@home initiative to help fight the COVID-19 novel coronavirus.
Specifically, Microsoft has published a PowerShell script that allows users to contribute their processing power remotely to Folding@home. See step-by-step-instructions below.
If you’re unfamiliar with Folding@home, it is a research project focused on distributed computing disease research. Naturally, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic falls under the umbrella of the project.
On Windows 10, users of Folding@home can share now CPU power to boost the efforts of the initiative. That’s where Windows Sandbox comes into play as it provides the safe environment for secure CPU power sharing.
In some ways, Microsoft is repurposing Sandbox for this role. The company describes the Sandbox as a place to run suspicious files without needing to worry about wider corruption to a machine or network. However, as a virtual machine, the tool clearly can benefit the Folding@home program.
It is worth noting COVID-19 was not the initial purpose of Folding@home. Led by computational biophysicist Greg Bowman, PhD, an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, the project previously helped to boost Azure GPU capabilities in the university.
Since the coronavirus outbreak exploded globally, over 700,000 new scientists have joined the initiative. By leveraging the additional CPU power hosted in Windows Sandbox, advanced simulations of COVID-19 proteins are possible. Scientists have been working to see how these proteins attach to human cells.
“Windows Sandbox you can run the open-source Folding@Home app to help simulate protein dynamics. Folding@Home is one of the most popular distributed computing projects bringing together citizen scientists who volunteer to run simulations of protein dynamics on their personal computers to fight COVID-19 and other diseases,” Microsoft explains.
With the new PowerShell script, it is now much easier for people to contribute CPU power from Windows 10 PCs. Below is the script Microsoft is using to integrate Folding@home with the Windows 10 Sandbox.
Working with the Script
Perhaps the most important starting information is you’ll need to be running Windows 10 Enterprise or Pro updated to build 18362 or newer.
You can find the script and related information on Microsoft’s GitHub platform, including full installation instructions. The script above will perform the following tasks on your computer.
- When the script is run, it will automatically enable Windows Sandbox (if it is not already enabled) and restart the system.
- Download the Folding@home Windows installer.
- Generate the configuration file for the client. This file allows the client to start in the Sandbox automatically.
- Create the init.cmd script that will run in Windows Sandbox.
- Create a config file within the Sandbox.
Installing and Running the PowerShell Script
- Open notepad on Windows 10 and select “File – Open” in the menu.
2. Load the install folding sandbox file from GitHub directly in notepad using this link. Just paste the whole URL and click “Open”.
3. Save the file using the filename “install_folding_sandbox_on_host.ps1” somewhere on your PC.
4. Run PowerShell as an administrator.
5. In PowerShell, run the following command from the folder where you saved the script file:
powershell.exe -ExecutionPolicy Bypass -File .\install_folding_sandbox_on_host.ps1
6. The script will install and run Folding@home in a virtual machine using Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualization tool in isolation and run calculations for the project with your machine. A status-windows will open up in your webbrowser where you can follow the progress.