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I have tried puppy, knoppix, and nimblex all trying to copy the contents of a crashed drive to an external. They all have problems writing to the external even though it is listed as "(rw)" I guess because a liveCD doesn't want to touch the installed system (?)
What is the most powerful linux liveCD which allows one to write from anything to anything else with all safety turned off?
I went with Ubuntu installation CD and never had to mount anything. As soon as I ran the installation CD as a live CD, I was given a beautiful GUI. It was apparent it even recognized the video card on my machine. From then on, it was simply drag and drop for me!
Is the internal disc a SATA drive or IDE? I am assuming IDE, but I wanted to mention on this topic that Knoppix does not support SATA drives, so it doesn't work well as a rescue cd on modern computers. In your scenario, if you had a bad SATA drive and wanted to rescue it using knoppix, you would need to put it into an external drive enclosure and perhaps put the target drive inside your computer or in a second external drive enclosure.
Again, this info is probably irrelevant to your situation as the difficulty you would have encountered would have been in mounting the SATA internal drive.