Friend of a co-worker has a Windows computer, and it's burdened with spyware and malware and it's slow and causing problems. She decides to get the local computer shop to look at it. The husband drops it off in the morning, computer guy looks at it and decides he'll take the easy way out. He phones the husband "I want to wipe the hard disk and install from fresh. That okay with you?" Husband says "Sure". Guy gets to work.
Husband picks it up after work, pays $100. Takes it home and gives it to the wife. She starts it up and starts to work on it and suddenly "Where's my photos?" and then follows three days of crying. Five years of family photos are gone. Birth photos, growing up photos of their son, Christmas, Halloween, vacations. All gone.
They phoned the computer guy. Not his problem, he did ask the husband if it was okay. Husband shouldn't have said "Yes, it's okay."
"Can't they get the photos back from their backups?"
Backups. You can't expect to keep family mementos on a fragile hard disk that is likely to die at any time, or be accidentally erased. You have to make backups. You have to take responsibility for knowing that your data is fragile and can be lost, you have to go and buy some external hard disk or make arrangements to have your data saved into The Cloud, and set it up to backup regularly. On the Mac, it's a little bit easier, but you still have to make the decision to buy an external hard disk and connect it. The Mac will recognise it's there and ask if you want to use it for backups, but you have to kick it off. And you can get MobileMe and back up to The Apple Cloud. Unless you're like me and have 100 gig of photos.
Backups are important if you want to keep your photos and documents and tax records safe. It's your responsibility to know about it, and to do something about it.
(I did have a look at their computer just to see if the photos had been saved anywhere, but no, they were gone forever.)
On the other hand, is there any value to saving family photos forever? We all take far too many photos, and most of them are junk. And when we are gone, they are even more worthless.