If your objective is to recover you data I would strongly discourage you from attempting to install Linux at this stage. When you say "no disk to work off", do you mean that you don't have a Vista installation disk? If so, and you value your data, your best bet is to get hold of one.
It does depend upon what other equipment you have. Is this your only computer? If you have another one there are alternative ways of recovering your data. But trying to install Linux is probably the surest way of losing that data.