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Issue #406: May 3–9, 2015

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Q: My family has made your house an annual event at Christmas. Thank you for helping spread the true meaning of Christmas through your displays. I am reasonably computer literate, or in other words, I know just enough to be dangerous! My question: I use McAfee “LifeSafe – Internet Security” including Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware, Anti-Spam, etc. I keep it up-to-date weekly if not daily. McAfee was not my first choice but it came with my Dell desktop and laptop computers. My problem: When doing anti-virus scans (either full or quick) on my Dell Laptop (Inspiron 7720 with Windows 8.1) it will take an inordinate amount of time, over 6 hours for the quick and over 12 hours for the full scan (the computer is doing no other work that I am aware of). It appears to spend most of the time (with 98-99% complete) scanning the “Rootkit.” This is only on my laptop and not on my desktop (Dell XPS with Windows 7 ultimate). Scans on my desktop, with about the same number of files, same McAfee and other programs, take the normal amount of time, maybe 2-3 hours for a full scan. What is the Rootkit and why does it take so long to scan on my laptop? I’m careful what I put on my computer, what emails I open, and where I go on the internet, consequently, my anti-virus rarely, if ever, finds a problem.

– Doug F.
Valparaiso, Florida

A:  Thanks for the kind words, Doug.  For those of you not in-the-know, he’s talking about The Geek Lights on the Corner, my annual Christmas lights and music show.  You’re welcome about spreading the true meaning of the holiday – we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Now, on to your problem.  This is probably going to come as a bit of a surprise to you, but there is no part of Windows called “the Rootkit”.  The term rootkit refers to a class of malware that is defined by their stealth characteristics and their ability to elude the normal methods of virus detection.  I would imagine that the reason that the scan on the affected system is taking so long is that there is a tiny, but epic little battle going on between your confused virus scanner and the malware that knows exactly what’s going on.  The rootkit is probably actively taking steps to avoid being detected, while your scanner may see that something looks odd, but can’t figure out what.

Rootkits are among the more difficult of malware infections to remove, but there are tools that are capable of – pardon the pun – uprooting them with little problem.  Most of them are free downloads from the major malware removal companies.  You’ll find that McAfee has one, which you can get at tinyurl.com/au4fay7.  Malwarebytes has one at tinyurl.com/pryfkdl.  Bitdefender Labs’ is available at tinyurl.com/bxwwbky.  And my favorite one, Kaspersky Labs’ TDSSKiller, is available at tinyurl.com/of6g63m.  There are others, but one of these should do the trick for you.  Remember, if you can’t read or transpose one of these links, the links are always live and clickable on my website at ItsGeekToMe.co.  Every link in today’s issue was tested and working as of publication.

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Q: For the past 2 1/2 years I have used an Iphone (6) and an Ipad (Air2) along with a Dell PC. I have downloaded the ICloud on my PC but cannot seem to ever sync my calendar & contacts. I plug them into my PC and when ITunes opens up I hit sync if it doesn’t automatically start. I have contacts and calendar checked on the Icloud to sync together. The Ipad and Iphone sync but not with my computer which I use often. Needless to say, I stay confused. Before the Cloud I never had this problem with my phones or devices. Thank you for any place you can steer me or information to help.

– Karen B.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

 A: Steer you I shall, Karen, because I’m just about out of space for this issue.  So, I’m going to do something I rarely do, and simply refer you to another page for your answer without giving a whole lot of my own explanation.  I think you’ll find everything you need at tinyurl.com/km8csos.  If that doesn’t help, visit my website and comment on this issue, and we’ll see what else I can do for you.

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