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2 In 3 People Say the Most Painful Thing They Could Lose Is Stored Digitally

2 In 3 People Say the Most Painful Thing They Could Lose Is Stored Digitally

We’ve all asked ourselves at one time or another: Which of our possessions would we grab first if fire, flooding, or a tornado threatened to destroy our home? In a true sign of modern times, it turns out that most people would grab a digital device. However, while digital devices and assets are considered valuable, many people fail to backup or protect their data before it’s too late.

We wanted to know just how much people value their digital assets and which ones they rank as most important, so we asked 1,000 people about their digital files. This post explores what we discovered.

Key findings

  • The average person worries about losing some or all of their digital files several times per year; 1 in 5 think about it on a monthly basis.
  • Two-thirds of people, or 2 in 3, say the most painful thing they could lose is digital.
  • Of digital items saved from previous relationships, 13% of people have NSFW (not suitable for work) pictures.

The most important digital files and apps

When asked what they would save if they were about to lose their homes, 66% of people said either their phone (38%) or computer (28%). In fact, significantly more people mentioned digital devices than the next closest item on the list, sentimental objects (18%). Only 6% named printed photos, and even fewer mentioned other electronics (3%) or jewelry (2%). Art came in last place with a minuscule 1%.

When discussing which apps people would be frustrated to lose personal data from, Facebook made first place on our list — by a lot. While 77% named Facebook as the app they would most hate to lose data from, only 45% mentioned second-place Instagram. Music holds a special spot in the hearts of our respondents, with Spotify (42%) coming in as the third most precious app. The newest app on the list showed up in last place with only 15% of people choosing TikTok.

How important is digital data to our respondents? One survey question gave a very clear answer: Close to half (44%) would give up sex for a year to avoid losing all of their digital property. Despite the obvious importance placed on digital assets, not everyone takes the utmost care to avoid losing it. Nearly half (47%) of people admit having digital property that they would find painful to lose but don’t currently have backed up.

digital files and apps Americans would save

Our most precious digital assets ranked

Almost all of our respondents agree on the importance of photos, with an overwhelming 91% naming pictures as their most precious digital assets. Even videos (67%) and important records (58%) — such as financial, health, and legal documents — came in second and third places, respectively, but still ranked far behind the clear, number-one choice.

Although photos, videos, and records reign decisively in terms of digital products that are precious to our respondents, digital work that people produced themselves stood out as well. Respondents also valued digital assets, such as things they’ve written (44%), creative work (38%), professional work (31%), and school work (21%).

Digital communication also made the most precious list, with respondents most concerned about losing their emails (28%), text messages (26%), and voicemails (21%). When it comes to digital products associated with hobbies or personal time, over a third (36%) of people most fear losing their collections of saved music, movies, and books, and 19% worry most about losing video game progress.

Americans most precious digital files ranked

When it comes to the two digital assets people valued most — photos and videos — respondents ranked which images would be the most painful to lose. Most people (62%) chose photos and videos of children. Images of people no longer with us also ranked highly, with 65% of respondents having saved pictures and videos of loved ones who passed away, and 53% naming those digital images as the most precious ones they have.

Although only 1 in 5 (20%) of people chose photos and videos of pets as the most painful images to lose, that category ranks higher than wedding (18%) and travel (12%) images. To reduce the risk of losing your photos, make sure to back them up on an external hard drive. Even if the hard drive fails, there are recovery options.

People are attached to digital assets from past relationships

Of digital images people worry most about losing, romantic relationships makes the list twice: wedding content ranks #4 and past relationships rank #7. If you’re curious what content people save from past relationships, we found that over half (54%) saved photos and videos, with 41% saving safe-for-work photos and videos of their ex and 13% saving NSFW images. People also worried about losing communications of various types that they had saved from past relationships, including text messages (17%), emails (11%), and voicemails (5%).

files Americans would save from past relationships


People consider digital devices and assets their most precious possessions, with photos and videos claiming the number-one spot in our hearts. Despite the clear importance of digital property, however, nearly half of people admit to putting it at risk by not having it backed up.

With the amount of digital assets we collect and use, thinking through your data protection, backup solutions, and data recovery options before you run into problems, like your laptop won’t turn on, can help protect the things we consider most precious.

Category: News & Press
Yevgeniy Reznik, Laboratory Operations Manager
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Yevgeniy Reznik is Laboratory Operations Manager at Secure Data Recovery Services in Cleveland, Ohio, and has more than a decade of experience as a data recovery engineer. He graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in computer science and spent 15 years as an IT entrepreneur and small business owner before joining the company.

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