This particular solution isn’t one that I discovered, though unfortunately in the course of seeking a solution I neglected to bookmark the post in which I read it.
There can be many causes for an automatic repair loop, so this solution may not fix the problem for everyone.
While working on a laptop for some friends I encountered a problem after applying some Windows updates. On restart the system went into a repair loop, which resulted in an inability to restart into Windows.
The Short Version: I needed to re-install OS X Lion on a system after formatting the standard partition. The install process required downloading the software from Apple first but it was blocked by network authentication. Requesting a temporary lifting of network restrictions for this system provided me with enough time to complete the download.
I needed to format a MacBook Pro that came with OS X Lion (10.7). My assumption was that the process would work the same as with disc-based installs.
The usual saying about assumptions applies.
The system didn’t have any problems at the beginning. I formatted the primary partition by booting to the recovery partition. Then, I let it begin the installation process by downloading the latest version of 10.7. I thought everything was working fine.
However, after I returned I discovered that the download had failed.
I still had about 70 GBs of free space on the ASUS. However, I needed more free space to add movies, or more likely, add my wife’s music to its iTunes library.
Rather then spend money on a new hard drive this month I decided to re-purpose an external, portable drive. Typically, the small portable drives are nothing more than a drive enclosure with a 2.5″ SATA hard drive. The ASUS drive was somewhere around 150 GBs. The USB external drive was 250 GBs.
My wife’s older computer is an eMachine T3958. It hasn’t been used for a long time and is several years old. It was her primary desktop and eventually became my first home automation server. I moved on to other hardware so it’s been sitting unused for some time.
I decided to get the computer working again so we could give it to someone that might have a use for it. When I first repartitioned the system I had the foresight to backup the recovery partition to a DVD.
Unfortunately, despite spending a few hours trying to work it out, I wasn’t able to use the recovery data to reinstall Windows and bring the system back to its factory state.
Perhaps there is a way to use it but I wasn’t able to get the system to boot into the recovery mode and as far as I could tell the Windows XP install files are not included within the recovery partition or they are obfuscated somehow. Marking the partition as active among other methods simply didn’t work.
Whatever discs that may have come with this system were lost a long time ago. The burned recovery discs were never made, as far as I know.
At this point I appear to have three options:
Borrow a Windows XP Home install disc and attempt to use the activation code on the system
Purchase a new copy of Windows XP Home
Purchase a copy of the original recovery discs from eMachines
I’m currently working on the last option. Since the machine is rather old I won’t be surprised if eMachines sends me an e-mail stating the discs are no longer available for purchase. If that turns out to be the case then I’ll try the first option.
Updated 08/15/2011: Last night I received a response from eMachines. The recovery discs for this machine are no longer available. “Recovery discs are only available for systems for 3 years from the date the system part number was created”.