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Hard drive about to die

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I have a hard drive that is about to die. It is the hard drive for my OS. It has given me 7 good years so I think I got my moneys worth. I obviously want to get my data off of it. So what is the best way to do this with hopefully as little strain as possible on it? Do I want to just load the OS then straight copy and paste to an external HD or a big flash drive? I have a couple of massive flash drives. I usually use my external HD's just trying to think of all my options. Do I want to load up a live cd and copy and paste that way so there is less OS strain on the HD? Use another computer to create an image? Is there some better option I am not thinking of? 

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You want (in theory):

1) an external connection, like a USB-SATA (or USB-IDE) adapter
2) to take the hard disk out of the PC case and connect it through the USB interface (a long normal SATA - or IDE -  cable might do, the point is about having the disk accessible in order to be able to put a hand on it and feel if it is warming too much) 
3) DO NOT use it as boot device
4) connect it to an already running system and use a program capable of doing (partial/in parts) dd-like copy[1] to an image
5) make sure that the disk is cool, either stop/suspend the copy if it heats up or have a fan capable of cooling it pointed to it (or both)

Now, in practice, you can forget the first four point and do whatever else instead, but the point #5 is important, do not over-stress the disk or let it warm up too much without proper cooling.

Generally speaking a backup is something that only works - maybe - for documents, a dd-like disk image contains the whole disk "as is", it takes much more space but it contains *everything*.


[1] under windows, datarescuedd:


or dmde:


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