My hard drive has been on the fritz recently, but I don't think it's too far gone yet. The computer still registers the drive, but Windows 7 is being stubborn and refuses to boot. I'm new to the Linux game, and I was wondering if a system like Ubuntu when run off a USB drive will be enough to recover my pertinent data - in other words, will Ubuntu running of a USB stick be able to access my hard drive so I can back everything up?
Yes, it should! Ubuntu autu-detects all present and mountable volumes at boot. Your hard drvie should show up in the file manager's sidebar. You would then only need to click on it to browse its contents.
Note that if the partition was not cleanly unmounted before, you may need to repair it using a tool like Gparted Partition Editor.