For folks moving into the security or incident response space for the first time, Knoppix, Helix, and BackTrack are an incredible resource. As for mounting the windows drive you are going to hit two issues: make sure your linux build is recognizing your usb ports, and using the right file system. Most of the live CD's will auto sense the usb ports so that shouldn't be an issue, and some of them will automount the drive if it is plugged in when you boot. If you have to mount it manually, try ntfs first and samba seconds if you can't get ntfs to work. Another thing to check, if you are trying to mount with one of the linux builds meant for forensics (especially Helix) when you do get it mounted it will be hard set as read only. It can be a bit of a pain in the hind-quarters to get it mounted as writeable.
CISSP, CISM, CISA, GCIH, GREM, CEH, HMFIC, KTHXBIROFLCOPTER