|Yes, the recovery disk will probably lose everything.|
You could use a Linux Live CD. This runs from the CD only but it allows access to the HD in order for you to put your important files on a flash drive. I use Puppy Linux but there are many others around, such as Knoppix. You have to "Burn an image" on another computer, using the download (rather than putting the download onto the CD). You will need to ensure that the CD drive is seen before the HD on the faulty computer - go to BIOS. Everything is single click in Linux and drag and drop can be useful.
Please come back and let us know how you got on.