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Why is Firefox slow to open pages?

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When I select a link, Firefox gets the grey counter clockwise circle for 18 secs consistently before it gets the green clockwise circle. I am not sure what each of these mean exactly, but I would guess they are "Waiting on..." and "Loading..." .

I have seen this when I am on my wireless network, but also when I am running a local XAMPP server so that the Network is not being utilized.

It is like the Browser is waiting on something that is not responding, even when it is on the same machine.

When going over the network, I have monitored the Network Traffic with WIN 7 Resource Monitor (not Performance Monitor). During the 18 second "Pause" there is no increase in Network Traffic, then suddenly before the page loads, the Network Traffic shoots up.

This happens most of the time, but not 100%. Task Manager shows no processes jumping up in CPU or Memory usage.

Running a WIN7 64 Pro, Quad Core AMD, with 4GM of Memoty and a SSHD. Everything should be lighting fast.