MacBook Pro turns on, shows Apple logo or desktop, and cuts out.

Have this MacBook Pro from 2009, 2.53GHZ, A1286. It will boot, show the Apple logo, and sometimes get to the desktop. Very quickly after it will turn off completely, as if someone pulled the battery (computer completely turns off, not just the backlight or screen). So far my troubleshooting has been:

-Tried swapping both RAMs into each slot respectively.

-Tried booting from a USB flash drive with HD removed.

-Tried booting the computer from a charger with the battery unplugged.

-I tried the NVRAM zap and SMC reset.

The only thing that fixed it temporarily was leaving the computer unplugged completely with the battery unplugged overnight. Then it worked fine, until the battery ran itself down and I tried booting it this morning with a charger plugged in. Any ideas?

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If you are running 10.5x try to boot to the repair/recovery partition and run AHT. If that fails see if it will target boot (I'm suspecting a HD failure since it partially boots sometimes).

If Target boot is unsuccessful and you have access to more than one Mac you can pull the HD put it in an External Case and see if it's damaged, and if you can repair that damage (munnged MBD vs hardware failure)

If you have another boot volume try booting from it.

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It's on 10.8. I had it on 10.6.8 before and it still did it. As I said in my post, I tried the machine with the hard drive physically removed and disconnected from the computer. I tried booting to a USB Flash drive with the Mountain Lion installer on it. It is irrelevant to the hard drive.

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I think it is either corrupt OS, or failing HD you're right at the end of the boot sequence..have you tried a safe (shift) boot? That only loads essential extensions (aka Apple Speak for drivers). If even essential drivers fail you might be seeing GPU overheat or failure (works until it gets hot)

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Yes, I've tried safe boot. The GPU/CPU overheat so far sounds accurate to me, it's the only thing that makes sense because it displays the same symptoms with the hard drive completely disconnected and removed and booting from a USB Flash drive. I think I will try replacing the thermal paste since that should remedy the overheating problems.

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Remove the old paste, do not apply to thick, spread it evenly on one side...

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