nope it wasn't that, i actually figured it all out. I figured out how to get 'r done with either distro. in case there's others with this kind of issue...:
basically I had to make sure both drives mounted as their correct filesystem (<mount -t ntfs /dev/hda1 /mnt/hda1> for the WinXP/NTFS drive and <mount -t vfat /dev/sda1 /mnt/sda1> for the USB [FAT/FAT16] drive). this was the problem with the OphCrack Live CD, it was basically copy files into thin air. I went with the Ubuntu Live CD because I could copy & paste/drag & drop stuff with the GUI file browser, plus I was able to mount my network shares and continue copying to there after the 128 MB USB drive got filled up.
u do have to be root (not the default user 'ubuntu' and simply continuosly using sudo when browsing the NTFS drive won't do it either) because NTFS is read only and only root has read and execute privileges (i couldn't get groups and others rx access and i didn't try changing the owner to ubuntu). to do this, i changed root's password (typed <sudo passwd root> at the command prompt, changed it to something simple), enabled administrator to login (i forgot the name of the applet/panel that controls that), logged out (got an error, i ignored it), logged in as root with the new password and fired the file manager (Nautilus) and started recovering files to the USB and the network shares
so yeah, Linux can sometimes recover files better than Windows... weird
there's most likely an easier method, but i just figured this out so it's dope to me
hope i was helpful