I had a system crash today, and I was able to get the mysql data files off the drive, but was not able to do any export. So I have the files /var/lib/mysql/*databases. I have a temp machine running in VMWare that I would like to have these databases setup so I could at the very least do a proper backup. My simply copying the files over I assume this will not work? Is there a method to take the old databases and import them to the new temporary server?
You should set up the rescue machine with the same version of MySQL as the failed machine. Then copy all the files from /var/lib/mysql into that directory on the rescue machine, make sure they are owned by mysql:mysql, then start the mysql service. You should be able to see the databases, repair any damaged tables, then do a proper dump.