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SETI@home Instructions for Windows

SETI@home for Windows
June 1999

(c) SETI@home, UC Berkeley, 1999

This document provides information on setting up and using SETI@home. For an explanation of what you see on your screen, and other information about SETI@home, visit our web site:
How to use this document


- Introduction

- Logging in to SETI@home

- Preferences

- The blinking icon

- Removing SETI@home

- Frequently asked questions (FAQ)


Thank you for installing SETI@home. With your help and the help of hundreds of thousands of other computer users like you, we increase the odds of detecting signs of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. This Help File explains how SETI@home works, how to alter its settings, or how to remove it from your computer.

SETI@home actually consists of two parts: an "application" and a "screensaver". The application does all the work: it downloads blocks of data through the Internet, performs the number crunching on that data (looking for orderly patterns that might be artificial), returns the results, and gets another block of data. The application is represented by a green radio telescope icon in the System Tray (normally at the lower right of your screen). You can open the application window by double-clicking on this icon.

Click to Enlarge

The screensaver program runs when you haven't used your keyboard or mouse for a while. It displays color pictures showing the data analysis process. Normally the application processes data only when the screensaver is running. Optionally, you can have the application process data all the time.

Logging in to SETI@home

To use SETI@home you must create an "account" on the SETI@home server. Your account is identified by your email address. This lets us notify you in case you discover ET.

If you run SETI@home on several computers, they can all run under the same account.

When you install SETI@home, you are asked whether you want to create a new account or use an existing account. The account is verified or created on our server at UC Berkeley, and SETI@home will run under this account indefinitely. If you want to switch to a different account, bring up the application window, open the Settings menu, and select Change/Create login. You will be shown the name of the current account, and you can elect to switch to another existing account or create a new account.

To switch to an existing account, you just type in the email address. If you create a new account, you will be asked for

  1. Name or nickname (handle)
  2. Email address
  3. Country
  4. Postal code
  5. Whether your computer is at school, work, or home

We will not give this information out to anyone. We use it to get statistical information such as how many people in country X are participating in SETI@home, how many users are at school, etc. This information is on display at our Web site,

If you check the option to display your email address, your email address might be shown on our web site if your screen saver finds something interesting, or if you earn some other mention, such as by crunching more data than any other user. The default for this setting is to NOT provide your email address. It's up to you. You can also decide whether to have your name appear on the web site.

Windows lets you declare names and passwords for different users on the same machine. However, changing your Windows login doesn't affect SETI@home. If you want to change your SETI@home login, you must use the Settings menu.


SETI@home lets you express your preferences for when it does data analysis, and when it makes network connections. You are asked for your choices when you install SETI@home, but you can change them later if you like. To do so, bring up the application window, open the Settings menu, and select Preferences.

There are three sets of preferences:

Data Analysis: either

- Data Analysis happens only when the screen saver is active or application window is open, or

- Data Analysis always runs

If you select the first option, SETI@home won't use any of your computer's processing power or memory when you're doing your normal work. If you select the second option, SETI@home will analyze data all the time. this uses about 15 MB of RAM and requires processing power, so we recommend this only if your computer is fast and has lots of RAM. If you try this setting and notice sluggish performance of other programs, turn it off.

Network Connection: either

- Ask me before connecting to the Internet, or

- Connect automatically whenever needed

You can choose whether SETI@home should ask your permission before setting up an Internet connection to the SETI@home server. A connection to the SETI@home server is only necessary when it's time to retrieve a new block of data. On a typical Pentium-class computer, this will happen every one or two days. Therefore, connection is not going to occur very frequently, but still you may want to have the screen saver alert you before doing so.

If you connect through a modem and your computer shares the phone line with voice calls or a FAX machine, you'll probably want SETI@home to ask your permission before connecting (otherwise it might try to dial while you are in a phone conversation, which can be annoying). Choose the first option in this case. The flashing SETI@home icon will alert you when SETI@home wants to set up a connection.

If you are connected to the Internet through a local area network (LAN) or have a modem with a dedicated phone line, choose the second option (connect automatically). This allows SETI@home to be more productive. If you choose this, don't be shocked when the modem suddenly begins to dial the phone, seemingly out of nowhere. SETI@home probably just needs more data to analyze.

SETI@home will connect to the Internet using the connection that is specified as the "default" connection in your Internet Settings. To set or check this setting, open the Start/Settings/Control Panel/Internet/Connection. If you use a modem to connect to the Internet, you probably already have a dialup networking connection (DUN connection) there. If you have multiple ISPs (Internet Service Providers), the DUN connection specified as the "default" connection is the one that will be used. Use the "Set as default" check box to select which ISP will be used if SETI@home is going to make an automatic connection. If you have trouble with your Windows auto-dialing setup, just make the connection manually when SETI@home gives you the option to "Connect Now".


This lets you specify the name and port number of your HTTP proxy. An HTTP proxy is a network security barrier used by many businesses to protect their computers. Your network administrator can give you the info. If you don't know what an HTTP proxy server is, you probably don't have one - just leave the "direct connect" button checked.

The Blinking Icon

Sometimes you will notice that the SETI@home icon is blinking. This means that your attention is needed. Double click on the icon for instructions. There are several possibilities:

- SETI@home needs to connect to the Internet, and is waiting for your permission to do so. If you do not have your computer set to dial automatically, you will have to dial manually (by running your Internet Dial-up connection for your ISP) before telling SETI@home to go ahead.

- There is a new version of SETI@home that you can download from our web site (

- SETI@home has encountered an error that you can fix. For example, you might be out of disk space. Delete some files, then click on OK to have SETI@home continue.

- SETI@home has encountered an internal error. In some cases you may be able to fix things by quitting the SETI@home application (click the button in the upper right corner of the application window) and starting it again. If the same error occurs repeatedly, please report it to use via our web site ( ; go to "Software Download and Help").

Removing SETI@home

Tired of looking for ET? Want to go back to flying toasters? Is SETI@home causing problems, and want to turn it off? Here are the three options you have:

- If you want to temporarily disable SETI@home until the next time you start up, right click on the SETI@home icon and select Exit. It will run again the next time you boot up or the SETI@home screensaver runs. To run it manually, click on Start / Programs / SETI@home.

- To select another screen saver. Click Start / Settings / Control Panel / Display / Screen Saver. Choose a different screen saver. If you have selected "Data analysis always runs" in your Preferences, SETI@home will continue to work in the background; otherwise it will run only when you bring up the application window.

- To remove SETI@home from your computer and hard disk, click Start / Settings / Control Panel. Then run Add/Remove Programs, select SETI@home, and click the Add/Remove... button.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: How do I bring up the SETI@home application window?
A: Find the SETI@home icon in the Windows "system tray" and double-click on it. The system tray is normally in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. The SETI@home icon looks like a green radio telescope dish. You can also right-click on the icon and select "Maximize".

Q: Where is the SETI@home icon? I don't see it in the system tray.
A: You may have exited from the SETI@home application by accident. You can run it again by selecting Programs / SETI@home from the Start menu.

Q: I don't see SETI@home in the Programs menu.
A: Install SETI@home again; download first if needed (from ).

Q: How do I set my default screen saver?
A: In the Control Panel, double click Display to bring up the Display Properties dialog. Select the Screen Saver tab. There you will see a list of available screen savers from which to select. Note: SETI@home makes itself the default screen saver when it runs for the first time after installation.

Q: Can I use Windows screen saver password protection with SETI@home?
A: Yes.

Q: How do I completely get rid of SETI@home?
A: In the Control Panel, go to the Add/Remove Programs dialog, and select SETI@home. Or you can select "Remove SETI@home" in the Start/Programs/SETI@home menu.

Q: My PC has lots of RAM and a fast processor. Can I have SETI@home run all of the time?
A: Yes. Bring up the SETI@home application window, and in the Preferences dialog, select the checkbox "Data analysis always runs."

Q: I'm running on a laptop and the installer hangs after I choose the directory into which SETI@home is to be installed. How do I fix this?
A: On a few laptops, the InstallShield setup program causes a search for the floppy drive (drive A:), which takes a minute or two if the drive is not connected. Wait a bit, and the installer should recover.

Q: I've just downloaded a new work unit and the connection to my Internet service provider has not been terminated. Does SETI@home hang up the phone?
A: No. Windows automatically terminates your connection after a period of inactivity. You can set the length of this period in your Internet settings in the Control Panel. Your ISP may also close the connection after a number of minutes.

Q: I'm running the screen saver: the left and right parts of the display appear to be cut off. Why?
A: You are probably running your system with a display resolution of 640x480. We now allow SETI@home to run in that resolution; however, you will not be able to view the entire display. We recommend display settings of at least 800x600. You can change the settings for your computer in the ControlPanel / Display dialog.

Q: I'm running on a dual processor Windows NT system, and the graphics look "weird". How do I fix this?
A: You can fix the SETI@home behavior by setting your system to force SETI@home use 1 processor.

Q: I'm running on Windows 2000 Beta 3, and the screen saver does not launch the client. Why?
A: We believe there is a bug in this beta version of the OS. You can manually launch the client from the start menu. If you "preview" the screen saver from the Display properties dialog, it will also launch the client.

From the SETI@home Read Me

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