If I remember correctly, to use a recovery CD you have to hit something like F8, or there is a recovery option at the bios screen to initiate it. If it is a factory CD, it should just boot like any other bootable image. Once you get the CD to boot, it should automatically create partitions and install with very little user input. Did the PC in question come with XP installed?
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke