Faculty Advisor

Professor David Finkel

Faculty Advisor

Professor Mark Claypool

Faculty Advisor

Professor Craig Wills

Faculty Advisor

Professor Xiannong Meng




The price of computers has dropped drastically over the past years enabling many households to have at least one computer. At the same time, the performance of computers has skyrocketed, far surpassing what a typical user needs, and most of the computational power of personal computers is wasted. Volunteer computing projects attempt to use this wasted computational power in order to solve problems that would otherwise be computationally infeasible. Some of these problems include medical applications like searching for cures for AIDS and cancer. However, the number of volunteer computing projects is increasing rapidly, requiring improvements in the field of volunteer computing to enable the increasing number of volunteer projects to continue making significant progress. This dissertation examines two ways to increase the productivity of volunteer computing: using the volunteered CPU cycles more effectively and exploring ways to increase the amount of CPU cycles that are donated. Each of the existing volunteer computing projects uses one of two task retrieval policies to enable the volunteered computers participating in projects to retrieve work. This dissertation compares the amount of work completed by the volunteered computers participating in projects based on which of the two task retrieval techniques the project employs. Additional task retrieval policies are also proposed and evaluated. The most commonly used task retrieval policy is shown to be less effective than both the less frequently used policy and a proposed policy. The potential that video game consoles have to be used for volunteer computing is explored, as well as the potential benefits of constructing different types of volunteer computing clients, rather than the most popular client implementation: the screensaver. In addition to examining methods of increasing the productivity of volunteer computing, 140 traces of computer usage detailing when computers are available to participate in volunteer computing is collected and made publicly available. Volunteer computing project-specific information that can be used in researching how to improve volunteer computing is collected and combined into the first summary of which we are aware.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Computer Science

Project Type


Date Accepted





performance, volunteer computing, Electronic data processing, Distributed processing, Resource allocation, High performance computing