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When I boot my laptop up I get a black screen and it says at the top:

"missing operating system"

I cannot afford to take it to someone to fix it. What can I do?

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Get a Windows CD and install an operating system. It's very hard to screw up. Give it a try and install an operating system. – Varaquilex May 6 '14 at 0:50

The boot loader could be corrupt. If you have the Vista disc you might be able to repair it. Here is a good article on how to do so.

https://support.microsoft.com/kb/927392

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