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how to recover data even when unable to mount?

It appears my 120G harddrive is near-death. Being unable to boot I used a 
knoppix cd to run smartd and /sbin/badblocks. 
my hard drive 3 partitions I wish to make backups of. After googling I have 
found several options- one being
dd if=/dev/hda of=/dev/hdb conv=noerror,sync
I have a new 160G hard drive.
Here is my plan 
install new hard drive ( I already have partioned with fdisk & used 
mkfs.reiserfs ), put near-dead hd into machine then boot into knoppix live 
cd. Use dd if=/dev/hda .... etc
I have no clue how much life is left in the old one and I dont want to make it 
work any harder than just getting files copied to new disk.
Are there any arguements to boot knoppix with to prevent old disk from 
spinning up until need be?
dd_rescue is also on this knoppix cd. Is that a better option than dd 
Before I pulled the old hd out I was unable to mount 2 partitions Input/output 
Anyway to force a ro mount on a corrupted filesystem?
Do I need to mount those partitions to do a dd if= .... ?
The reason I ask here is because I feel it may already be too late for much of 
the data and that I have very limited time to save the data. 
Hoping I can get the most efficient & best options from this group.
Any tips would be appreciated.

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