You can create a bootable RescueCD - but on a USB thumb drive.
You boot off the USB thumb drive and if the hard disk is still useable you can navigate and find your files on the HDD.
One example: Ubuntu Desktop. Had pretty clear and easy to follow for USB stick versionhttp://www.ubuntu.com/download/ubuntu/download
It's not Windows, but has a folder based file manager like system that just enough like Windows for most people to use.
When you power on the 'Netbook use the F12 key to get an option to bootup the USB stick.