Windows 8.1 stuck in "automatic repair" loop; MS "create media" download offine!

A Windows 8.1 tower (lenovo 10130, family:  lenovo h530) is stuck in the loop where you reboot and it says:
"preparing automatic repair", "diagnosing your pc", "automatic repair - your pc did not restart correctly"

I cannot do most of the fixes (reset, restore), because it tells me "there aren't any administrator accounts on this pc"

When I try the startup options, it lets me choose safe mode(s), but then it reboots right into the same Automatic Repair.

Lots of google searches on this, and this one's on point:
http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_8-system/windows-8-taking-me-to-automatic-repair-but-no/6cbc995e-9ecb-4e28-8d6c-adabdecb8374

But like the others it ends up pointing to this MS website:
Create installation media for Windows 8.1
http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/create-reset-refresh-media

And the crucial "create media" link is now invalid:
http://web.esd.microsoft.com/W9TPE/0ABA00DD20413FB6425A0D45222C562B/E/mediacreationtool.exe
404 - File or directory not found.
___
Some posts suggested addressing the "admin user" issue, by trying to unlock the hidden admin account, or re-enable the main user account (also admin), using the Offline Windows NT Password & Registry Editor boot CD. But when I run this (from USB driver or CD), I get an error (kernel panic).  (I had to disable boot security and enable legacy booting.)

I also used a Win 8.1 Pro install disc to get a command prompt, and I typed "net user administrator /active:yes" and "net user administrator <Password>", but upon reboot, nothing changed.

I used the same Win 8.1 Pro disc to bring up the same "repair your computer" options, "refresh" said "drive is locked", startup repair failed, system restore said "os not specified", but they were locked by same "lack of admin user".

I tried a bunch of fixes using BCDEDIT from the following page (fixboot, fixmbr, rebuildbcd), including renaming the bcd folder, but every time I came back to "bdcedit /rebuildbcd", I always got the error: "the requested system drive cannot be found"
https://www.winhelp.us/repair-your-computer-in-windows-8.html#arloop

DISKPART says the C drive is NOT read-only, but also says 0 gb are free.  I tried marking that partition as "active" but got some error. (Sorry, not in my notes. can do it again if nec.)

I also tried removing the two ram sticks, trying each individually in new slots. No improvement.

Ran CHKDSK /r.

I tried setting bios > ata drives setup > sata mode from AHCI to disabled & IDE. NO help.

The owner of the computer does not have recovery / installation media, but the F2 key does allow restoring the original OS.  A factory reset seems a little extreme, though.


So the main thing I have NOT tried is the microsoft "mediacreationtool.exe" file. Is it elsewhere online? Will it do anything the Win8.1 disc won't?
dgrrrAsked:
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sarabandeCommented:
but the F2 key does allow restoring the original OS.  A factory reset seems a little extreme, though.
it looks as if the pc has new uefi bios which has a restore partition. the restoration would destroy all data and programs installed by the user (you may ask lenovo but as i also had a windows 8 notebook where i had problems to get a new 8.1 pro installed because of the restore partition i am pretty sure about that).

if the disk is not encrypted, you may remove the system disk and add it temporary to some free sata connector of another (windows) pc.  then you should be able to access the disk from other computer. perhaps it even allows you to 'repair' the disk from there. if not you may try some tool like paragon drive manager.

Sara
dgrrrAuthor Commented:
Update - the Media Creation Tool link is up again, trying that....

.... Nope. No difference from Windows 8 install disk. (When I try to refresh it says, "The drive where Windows is installed is locked. Unlock the drive and try again."

FYI tried to use diskpart to mark the C drive (windows) as active, but it said "the active command can only be used on fixed mbr disks". Dunno what that means.

THIS is the most relevant google result I've seen at this point...
http://www.qliktips.com/2012/11/fix-windows-8-boot-issue.html
It has all the same error messages I'm getting. Except when I did the whole thing (ending with "BCDBoot c:\Windows /s z: /f: UEFI") and rebooted, I got a new error, "recovery, your pc needs to be repaired, an unexpected error has occurred, error code 0x00000001"

I probably messed up the commands. Seems like it has to do with the new UEFI, and how I need to FIX the boot partition or whatever it's called now... Maybe that's what you meant, sarabande.

I'm using robocopy to back up his user folder to an external usb HD. AFter that I'll try the factory reset. If it doesn't work, I may have to learn how to recreate uefi partitions, boot records, all that stuff.
sarabandeCommented:
the active command can only be used on fixed mbr disks
it means that the master boot record (mbr) is broken and that you need to fix it ("repair it") before you could boot from that disk. the following article shows how to do that with and without backup of the mbr. since you got a command prompt you may look at the disk if there isn't a backup file for the mbr available. those backups might have made automatically at the initial setup.

https://neosmart.net/wiki/fix-mbr/

error code 0x00000001"
error 1 means file not found what probably is because the disk is not accessible as long as it is not repaired.

AFter that I'll try the factory reset. If it doesn't work, I may have to learn how to recreate uefi partitions, boot records, all that stuff.
the factory reset is based on a backup stored at a hidden partition. if the mbr is broken, the factory reset is likely to fail as well. even if the backup would be at separate disk the system could boot from that but would not be able to use the main disk for the new installation. if you got the data from the disk you are not necessarily stuck on the physical disk. you might consider using a ssd drive instead and/or use windows 7 (pro) instead of windows 8 (or windows 8.1 pro). the uefi bios might still try to prevent you from doing so, but if it finds no backup os there are ways to move to a new configuration. stiil not easy but makeable.

Sara
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nobusCommented:
it can be your disk drive is dying, so before trying a restore, i would test the disk
i use UBCD for this :
Hardware diagnostic CD    UBCD

go to the download page, scroll down to the mirror section, and  click on a mirror to start the download
Download the UBCD and make the cd   <<==on a WORKING PC, and boot the problem PC from it
Here 2 links, one to the general site, and a direct link to the download

since the downloaded file is an ISO file, eg ubcd527.iso - so you need to use an ISO burning tool
if you don't have that software, install cdburnerXP : http://cdburnerxp.se/

If you want also the Ram tested - run memtest86+ at least 1 full pass,  - you should have NO errors!
 
For disk Diagnostics run the disk diag for your disk brand (eg seagate diag for seagate drive)  from the HDD section -  long or advanced diag !  (runs at least for30 minutes)

http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/                        ultimate boot cd
http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/download.html             download page

**  you can make a bootable cd - or bootable usb stick

for completeness -here's how i handle disk problems : http://www.experts-exchange.com/Storage/Hard_Drives/A_3000-The-bad-hard-disk-problem.html


you may need to change boot options : http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/how-to-access-the-bios-on-a-windows-8-computer/
noxchoGlobal Support CoordinatorCommented:
Copy out your data from the partitions and restore it to factory settings. The time for repair could turn to be more expensive that time to reinstall.
To copy out the data from non-bootable system use Paragon Rescue Kit Free: http://www.paragon-software.com/home/rk-free/
See here how: http://www.experts-exchange.com/videos/429/How-to-copy-out-quickly-files-from-the-system-which-won%27t-boot-anymore-using-Paragon-Rescue-Kit-14-F.html

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dgrrrAuthor Commented:
Everyone recommends paragon, but I can never see where the file manager for copying files is...
noxchoGlobal Support CoordinatorCommented:
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