It sounds like you had a hidden manufacturer's restore partition on your hard disk along with the Windows Vista partition. Computer manufacturers often provide their own version of Windows and a set of restore discs that only work with their computer models.
Some manufacturers (Acer) have restore discs that won't work if you repartition your hard disk. You have to put the partitions back the way they were when you got the computer. Your attempt to use the restore disc obviously didn't work. You will have to contact the computer manufacturer to ask about how to restore the computer or read the documentation on their web site.
Since I don't know what partitions you started with I can't really say what went wrong. If you post your exact computer manufacturer and model I might be able to find out more information. Some companies don't provide much information about their restore discs.
A lot of people who install Linux don't have a basic understanding of partitions. While that isn't a problem if everything goes right, it can lead to disaster if the computer has an unusual partition setup. What I suggest is that you do some reading about partitions and booting before you try to do anything else.
There are some things you can check that will help determine whether Vista is still on your computer somewhere. If it is you may be able to repair Vista information.
Do you have an NTFS partition? Is there a "WINDOWS" folder on it? Do you have a "boot" folder? Do you see a file called "bootmgr" in the NTFS partition?
I will explain a little bit about partitions and booting.
Every hard disk has one special sector (512 bytes of data) at the beginning of the disk. That's called the MBR (Master Boot Record) and it contains the Partition Table. Along with that is some software that the BIOS loads when it finishes the self test on startup. The default software in the MBR looks to see if some partition is "Active" (marked as the boot partition) and then loads software from the first sector of that partition to continue booting.
The partition table can define up to four main partitions. A main partition can be either Primary or Extended. You can only have one Extended partition. Primary partitions can be booted. The purpose of the Extended partition (if present) is to allow for more partitions that contain data and are not able to boot. The data partitions in an Extended partition are called Logical partitions or Logical drives. Logical Partitions are essentially inside the Extended partition and don't appear in the Partiton Table in the MBR. You can create as many Logical partitions as you want using the space available inside the Extended partition.
Even though Logical partitions can't be booted they can contain an operating system. The boot loader for the operating system has to be in a different (Primary) partition separate from the rest of the OS.
When you install Windows using a normal Microsoft Setup disc it usually creates exactly one Primary partition containing NTFS (the file system for Windows). Setup also writes the default software to the MBR and marks the Windows partition as "Active". The first sector of the Windows Partition (Partition Boot Sector) has software to start the Vista boot loader program called "bootmgr". So, the BIOS loads the MBR and then that loads the Partition Boot Sector of the Windows Partition. That starts "bootmgr" and "bootmgr" displays the Vista boot menu or just starts up Windows.
If you later install Linux the existing Primary partition is usually re-sized to be smaller and a second Primary partition is created for Linux. Linux installs a boot loader called "grub" directly in the Master Boot Record. That bypasses the normal boot software in the MBR but does not change the Partition Boot Sector in the Windows partition. The Setup for the Linux distro usually adds a grub menu entry that can "chain" to the Windows Partition Boot Sector and start "bootmgr". If that menu entry isn't created or Windows isn't in the expected place (first partition) then Windows might not boot. The "bootmgr" program also looks at the MBR for a disk serial number. Installing "grub" shouldn't change the serial number but if it does then Vista will not boot.
When a computer manufacturer creates a hidden restore partition it is usually the first Primary partition and Windows Vista is the second Primary Partition. The first partition may be marked as "hidden" or may have a non-standard partition type that makes it inaccessible. When you try to install Linux to a third Primary partition the menu entry for grub may be incorrect. I think that is what happened in your situation.
What can you do now? Unfortunately you may have to erase the hard disk before or during the process of using the manufacturer's restore discs. The restore discs will probably expect (or create) a hidden manufacturer's partition and one for Windows Vista. The restore discs may or may not erase the hard disk or give you the option to save existing files.
If you have an actual Microsoft Windows Vista Setup CD then it will put Windows the first Primary partition. Even if you choose to put Windows in some other partition (besides the first one) Setup will ALWAYS install the "bootmgr" to the first Primary partition recognized by Windows. The "bootmgr" and Windows Vista may be installed to different partitions in that case. You can move the existing Linux partition up and leave space to create a Primary NTFS partition before the Linux partition. You can also just delete the existing Linux partition during Windows Setup and start over. Create a Primary NTFS partition for Windows and leave room for a second Linux partition.
It is important that you find out what sort of Windows Setup or restore discs you have from the computer manufacturer because that will affect how you install Windows Vista. A lot of manufacturers do not give you a "normal" Microsoft Windows Vista Setup disc.
Before you install Linux you should determine what partitions are present and what they contain. If you have more than one partition or Windows is not in the first partition then you will have to do something special to install Linux.
The Linux installer should have advanced options for installing grub. What I recommend is that you DO NOT install grub to the MBR. Instead install grub to the Linux root partition. Then you can use the "fdisk" or "cfdisk" program in Linux to set the Linux partition as "Active" (mark it as the Boot partition). Make sure that you note which partition is the Boot (active) partition before you change that. Then if you have a problem you can change the Active partition back to what it was.
To add the Windows partition to the grub menu you can edit the file "/etc/grub/menu.lst". You can find tutorials online about how to add Windows as a boot option for grub. Normally something like this is in "menu.lst" to boot Windows.
title Microsoft Windows Vista
To boot some other partition you change the "(hd0,0)" to "(hd0,1)" or "(hd0,2)", etc. The first Primary partition is "(hd0,0)". The second Primary partition is "(hd0,1)".
If you do install grub to the MBR then you will have to either uninstall grub or repair Windows Vista in order to put things back to "normal". To repair the MBR requires a Microsoft Windows Vista Setup disc (that you might not have) or another boot disc that can put back the standard MBR code. There's no advantage to installing grub to the MBR because you can simply mark the Linux partition as "Active" and accomplish the same thing (grub starts first). Unfortunately the default for many Linux distros is to install grub to the MBR and special steps are required to avoid that during installation.
I hope I didn't overwhelm you with information. I think you will end up doing something like this to get Windows Vista and Linux.
- Remove existing partitions and create those required by manufacturer's restore discs
- Install Windows Vista using manufacturer's restore discs
- Look at the partition configuration done by the restore discs
- Install Linux but select advanced grub installation options
- Choose to install grub to the Linux root partition
- Use "fdisk" or "cfdisk" to set the Linux partition as "Boot" (active)
- Add Windows Vista boot menu entry to "menu.lst" for grub
The key information to know is what kind of Windows Setup or restore discs you have, and what partitions are present BEFORE you install Linux. You may have a single Primary NTFS partition or you may have two Primary partitions (manufacturer's and Windows NTFS). Some manufacturer's (Acer) might create three partitions.