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Mid 2010 Model A1278 / 2.4 or 2.66 GHz Core 2 Duo processor

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Why is my MacBook Pro freezing after ~30 seconds?

The computer freezes after ~30 seconds. USB devices have power for a few moments after freezing and then power is cut. The fan still spins. The monitor still displays video. However, the computer is completely unresponsive.

I first attempted booting from a 500GB HDD preloaded with Lion, which has since been allocated for something else. I attempted booting and it would stall while loading the OS. I attempted verbose boot mode and there is nothing unusual. It simply stops logging messages after the computer freezes. The last message was "previous shutdown cause 3" for force shutdown. I force shutdown the computer each time is freezes.

I am able to access single user mode (Command+S).

After this failed, I attempted booting from my reliable flash drive. My flash drive has bootable installers for Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, and High Sierra. Booting from the Leopard installer results in a kernel panic after booting for ~3 seconds. The High Sierra installer stalls after passing the halfway point. I have also tried network recovery for High Sierra but the result is the same.

I have tried booting to Apple's hardware test DVD. However, the computer abruptly shuts down immediately after the GUI appears. I can't read anything onscreen except I can see what appears to be a GUI interface.

I have tried disconnecting hardware to isolate the problem. I disconnected the trackpad, optical drive, sleep/hard drive cable, display, camera/mic, and the small cable immediately next to the keyboard cable. The problem still persists. I tested the monitor by plugging an optical mouse into a USB port, navigating the keys to boot Ubuntu and assumed the computer froze after the light on the mouse died.

I have also attempted PRAM and SMC resets.

I have also attempted booting Ubuntu from a bootable flash drive and the OS runs for ~30 seconds before the computer freezes. Everything is completely stable for those 30 seconds. I open the Resource Monitor program in Ubuntu to check processor and RAM resources and everything appears to be within normal range.

What else should I try? What could be causing this problem?

Thank you.

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Do you have access to a second Mac system which you can connect to via FireWire? If you can Connect the two back to back and then kick your system into Target Disk Mode by booting up holding the T key run Disk Utilities to see if the drive is in good shape. If it is leave your system running and reboot your testing system hold the 'Tab' key so you can chose your problem Mac's drive (acting as an external) see if your testing system will boot up. If it does we know the drive & the OS are good.

That points to a logic board issue with your system. I'm suspecting you have a GPU logic issue (likely the dedicated Video RAM). In Safe mode you're using the main memory only its when you run the full OS does the video driver load up and map the Video RAM in.

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I thought it might be a GPU problem but I can run Ubuntu from a flash drive for ~30 with no problems before everything freezes. The video signal is good during that time. I know the HDD I tested was good because it worked reliably in another machine. Also, the problem with this MBP continues to persist even without the HDD. It freezes with flash drives too. I know the bootable flash drive images are good because I've successfully used them on other Macs.

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Then you've proved the issue is the Video RAM. The Ubuntu driver does not use it unless you added the driver! Sadly the RAM is part of the chip in this series.

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Sounds like a hardware problem. Might be the HD beginning to fail. More likely culprit is bad RAM. Have you tried swapping out the RAM?

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Yes, I've tried multiple different SODIMMs and the problem persists.

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