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so this was obviously pretty dumb of me, but hopefully it's not too hard to fix. I deleted my ubuntu partition from windows, and of course now I can't boot into anything. It says error 17. I have a lot of important files in windows that I need to access. What should I do?
Depends what you want to do - if you are going to put another Linux on, just go ahead. The installer will fix the boot-loader for you - and probably add an entry for windows (depends on distro).
If you want a Windoze only box, just boot the CD, and get into recovery console when it tells you to. Then run fixmbr. For Vista use "bootrec.exe /fixmbr"
So, you were dual-booting linux & windows. If I understand you correctly, now you have deleted linux, and therefore grub so you cannot boot to windows anymore?
You are in a big and scary mess.
My solution would be to:
Borrow a computer so you can download stuff.
Download a linux "live CD" eg knoppix. Burn it to a CD.
Boot from it on your broken computer. Do not click "Install" if that option is offered.
Mount your windows partition and rescue your essential files to a USB-attached external disk.
Once you have rescued your files you are free to try restoring windows boot.
You don't say which version of windows you were running (3.1 or vista?), but you should google for fix MBR only after you have safely rescued your important personal files to an external disk.
There is a much easier way to do it than has been listed above. Just download a copy of super grub, burn it to disk. Then just boot super grub from the cd, it will repair or totally replace the grub. Super grub even has a feature that will help you through the process, it normally takes less than a minute. Super grub is listed in distrowatch.com If you run linux you should never be without it. It will restore the grub for linux/linux, linux/windows or a single os.
There is a much easier way to do it than has been listed above.
And wouldn't you know it, there's an even easier way, you didn't delete grub (in MBR), you deleted the Ubuntu partition where the grub config file was located, but you can still boot Window$ by typing this at the grub command line when it boots up: