The one and only Linux distribution known as Knoppix live for cd saw some good articles on just that a few years ago. Since Linux can read MS partitions while Windows can't see into Linux you can use some live for cd-r distros like Knoppix, ubuntu, and some others for rescuing files from a drive or partition when Windows can't. But the drive still has to be in working order and not see bad read/write heads or a worn bearing inside of it.
One of these articles can be reviewed at Computer First Aid Using Knoppix
I keep a few burns of that distro and a few live versions around for such an occasion. At the Linux destop the drives installed on the system appear as desktop shortcuts for ready access.