Grid computing turns your idle cycles into a charity-supporting supercomputer

Mark sez, "Charity Engine has a new twist on volunteer computing: using surplus, wasted PC resources to raise money for major charities including Oxfam, Amnesty, MSF and CARE - and also for huge prize draws for everyone running it. Based on UC Berkeley's famous BOINC software, the Charity Engine grid is hired to science and industry as a super-cheap supercomputer, then the profits given to the charities and volunteers. It's already paid out over $30,000. The app only uses a tiny bit of electricity and generates far more for the good causes - and the prize draws - than it costs to run. Free to download, Charity Engine is available now for PC and Mac."


  1. There was a time when idle cycles were just that; CPUs used the same power whether idle or at 100% utilization.  Now, everything goes into low power states: CPU, USB, PCI-e, drives, fans.  Running this software drives your utilization up, and you’ll be burning about $20/month/pc more in power (plus cooling).  It would be better for everyone if you just sent them a $240 check for the year.

      1. It’ll still use a bit more power

        a pretty much idling pc running torrents will use a lot less power than a pc running with the CPU maxed out with software like this.

        Depends on the power usage difference between your CPU under load and idle to know whether it’s worth it really.

        I might run this myself during the colder months, but not during the summer. My PC is a bit like a spaceheater when loaded :)

      2. PC on for torrents? Best possible time to have CE running. You’re leaving the PC on anyway, its CPU is hardly touched and CE only uses a few watts (see above). Should be bundled with BitTorrent.

    1. Hi Mace,

      We were very careful to make sure CE is super-efficient. It won’t run a CPU past 60% and typically only costs <10p per day if run as a background task. You can take a CPU from 5% to 60% usage for no more extra power than charging an iPhone. You'll double the power to make it run at 100%, though (and spin the fans up, etc), so we don't do that.

      Re. sleeping/suspend, etc. We don't want people leaving PCs on just for this, that spoils the efficiency. Just have it ticking away in the background when you ARE using your PC, then it's providing the most efficient – and most ethical – computing on the planet. Cheers, Mark

  2. This is very old phenomena…. i think since last 8 years… earlier it was for astronomical research. …

    Better those cycle be given to digital revolutionary applications like youtube/facebook and Geatiful…. at least for current generation it would be worth…. ;)

  3. From the site…

    “Charity Engine typically adds less than 10 cents per day to a PC’s energy costs and can generate $10-$20 for charity – and the prize draws – for each $1 of electricity consumed.”

    Is nobody actually reading that, or is everyone assuming it’s all lies, and they can figure out the true cost/benefit ratio by the power of guessing?

    1. Linux users welcome!

      Just DL ‘original’ BOINC then attach to as your Account Manager (NOT as a project). 

      We’ll make that easier soon. So much dev, so little time… ;)

  4. > “Uses a small amount of electricity”

    Well, only when it isn’t running. Once BOINC activates, it’ll be any available CPU cycle it can get…and that’s a direct link to power usage. I’vebeen running SETI@Home for 12 years or so, and can attest..they’re only “idle” cycles until they’re being used, and then they become “space heater cycles”.

    1. Hi CPM,

      Charity Engine deliberately doesn’t use ‘everything’. Your CPU won’t go higher than the efficiency sweet spot of 60%, because a PC can cruise at that all day long for just another 7-8% power (< 10 watts) compared to idling. Shouldn't even kick the fans in.

      And if your CPU is already being used more than 60%, CE uses nothing.
      (from Charity Engine)

  5. I used Charity Engine and had to uninstall it.  It chewed up my ram with a mess of processes that I had to kill manually.   A good idea, but not worth the hassle.

    1. Hi Jeffrey, sorry about that. It was a temp glitch with rosetta (one of the humanitarian projects we default to). It’s no longer on the system – at least, not until they fix it.

  6. After reading through the materials on the site and these comments, I’m left confused as to what, exactly, the CE is DOING. What is the data it is crunching that is so important for these specific charities?
    In other words, how, precisely, does volunteering cycles on my system translate to dollars for these charities? Are we in fact crunching data that is unrelated to the charities themselves, which is then sold to other corporate / public entities, and then THAT money is given to the charities? What is the actual financial AND technical model employed in the CE?

    1. Correct, you’re crunching data for corporate / public entities, then all the profits are shared between the charities and the prize draws. Strictly ethical work only, of course.

      1. Wait, Mark.  So, are you using BOINC to crunch data from projects OTHER than the various SETI at Home, Folding at HOME  uses?

        As in, were I to be a user of Charity Engine, my computer would be crunching corporate data, and the fees charged that corporation are forwarded to charities and users?

        Edit: And people are willing to do this, without FHE being useful yet?

        1. Yes, precisely. With CE, now it doesn’t matter what task your PC is working on, because it still raises the same money for the charities and prize draws. Any task is now a worthwhile task.

          CE does reserve some of the grid for Africa@home (malaria research) and gives them any unsold capacity as well.

  7. Great idea, and no problem with crunching for corporate or public entities if it’s “strictly ethical work only” and the money they pay is going to charity (and the prize).

    However, I downloaded and started running, and the fan on my laptop (Acer Aspire 5742, Intel Core i5 CPU) went into overdrive. I’ve never really noticed the fan before, even playing Minecraft! I could turn the noisy fan off by pressing Pause on Charity Engine and waiting a few seconds, then turn it back on by pressing Resume. This freaked me a bit so I uninstalled. An option to limit CPU usage below your 60% mark to my own level would have been good (unless I missed it?).

    1. It does a CPU benchmark test on first run (a pop-up window should have explained that?). Once it registers your PC with our server, it’s then told to reset to 60% max.

      You can override the default CPU usage at any time by clicking ‘preferences’ on the app. Allows you to select anything from 10% – 100%, and also to schedule when it’s active, when it can connect to the net, etc. You can customise everything.

    1. WCG is awesome, but Charity Engine is actually more useful. WCG can only crunch for a few preselected projects (and there’s no rewards for participating), but any researcher can use the Charity Engine grid.

      CE also works towards better vaccines and clean water, by the way. We know that they save more lives than pretty much anything else on Earth (along with Vit A/zinc supplements), so CE constantly crunches for and one of our supported charities is Water Aid.

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