Difference Between Hard Copy and Soft Copy

By Jaxson

Main Difference

A hard copy is an electronic document file, printed on paper and a soft copy is a digital document that’s not published on paper but is within an electronic form like in USB drives and computers, etc..
As we are living in an information age, data is quite crucial for us. Data is mostly shared globally through different procedures of transmission. Both the soft and hard copies are used globally for distributing information worldwide. Nevertheless, the chief difference lies in their own method of sharing information. A hard copy is a physical thing which may be touched as it’s made from paper as a soft copy is untouchable and a digital copy of the data, stored in an electronic device’s memory.

What’s a Hard Copy?

A hard copy takes loads of time because it is a substance that has to be delivered via email, whereas a soft copy makes exchanging information anywhere in the world quickly with the click of a button. A soft copy precedes a soft copy; for example, you type some info on a computer screen that’s a soft copy. Next, you print it out and then you receive a concrete form of soft copy on paper — that is a hard copy. A hard copy is available to read at any time, anywhere; whereas a soft copy always requires a digital medium to display info. It can be any sort of digital medium, such as personal computers, cloud pushes, adobe reader, etc.. Making adjustments on a hard copy is difficult while it is easy to change any type of wording on a soft copy through computer applications.

A soft copy can be shared through the worldwide web with the support of the Internet within minutes, but a hard copy may take some time from several hours to a few days or months to move it via email post support. A hard copy takes a scanner or a printer to publish data whereas a hard copy is contingent upon using computers. A handwritten document page is a hard copy and an electronically written record on a computer display screen is a soft copy.

The term hard copy itself describes something touchable, physical and tangible. And copy means the result of a production or information. So the collective meaning of hard copy is, production of any record or information in a physical object or form. Printed books, newspapers, magazines, documents, etc. all are kinds of hard copy. Hard copy is an older way of keeping the record in physical form. Although technology has been changed but still old is gold. Property papers, contracts, agreements and other signed documents are still required to be kept in physical form or hard copy to prove your point.Teleprinter pages, books, computer printouts and likewise pages and printouts are the best examples of hard copy. It is considered as an old way of representing the data but still the widely used medium of data and information in the modern world. The term hard copy sometimes also used for the computing purpose as well. But make it clear that non-printed punched paper tapes, diskettes, CDs or any kind of magnetic tapes are not considered as the hard copies. The hard copy is highly associated with the printing of newspapers, books and likewise printouts. Despite the fact that there are many advantages of using hard copy but this system is gradually decreasing because it involves huge cost and wastage of time. You can’t easily share the hard copy in case of original one with anyone living in other country. In case of giving another hard copy of document to anyone means there will be printing cost. But still the hard copy is generally accepted as the authentic medium of information. In case of validity of document, signatures are taken on the hard format documents.

What’s a Soft Copy?

A soft copy is an unprinted yet printable copy of data (information) that is typed into a computer’s word processing application and is only available on computer program. It’s not physically present but saved in a computer memory or a USB drive memorycard. This type of copy can be moved in the form of an electronic file from a single personal computer to another through the world wide web, a data cable, a USB drive, or a floppy disc or CD. This copy doesn’t take a large physical storage space to keep it and is very cheap to produce.

Soft copy means a data or information which can be stored in any kind of digital memory. It is an intangible form of preserving the material. You can see the record but cannot touch it. Monitors or others display screens are used to see the soft copy results. Soft copy is a latest form of preserving the material and information in a digital form. With the invention of computer, concept of soft copy came into existence. Among lot of advantages of having soft copy two main advantages of soft copy are that you can anytime send the data via email and can preserve the data without having actual physical place. In short, you can get rid of from courier services and bulky files.Unlike hard copy, it is not stored or printed over physical paper rather available in the form of digital document file like digital text format, image format or any other presentation format. PDF, doc files, xlx files, presentation files, etc. are the best examples of soft copy. Instead of viewing via any physical media, these are accessed through database programs, word processing programs or through any presentation program subject to the format of the files or data. These can be transferred from one PC and operating system to another PC or operating system through USB drives, external disk drives or online sharing and downloading. There are many advantages of using soft copy as it makes the environment of office paperless. But at the same the credibility of soft documents are still at stake. Despite the fact that digital signature system has been introduced but still the signature fixed on the soft copy is not regarded as the genuine one and not authenticate the credibility of the document.


Pdf files, doc files, xlx files, presentation files, word files on a computer, scanned copy of the hard copy, etc..

Key Differences

  • Producing soft copy is less expensive than producing hard copy. Compiling a single book in hard format will be more expensive than producing an eBook on any word processing software.
  • Soft copy has no weight. Weight is just of the media on which it is stored. Hard copy carries some weight. Having bulk of pages of hard copy means large amount of weight as well.
  • Soft copy requires no physical space as compares to hard copy. Sometimes hard copies required a special record room or portion of cabinet.
  • Hard copy cannot be preserved for a long time. Chances of termite becomes even more high in case of old files and documents.
  • Hard copy is beneficial in the sense that it is touchable and can be read out easily. While soft copy sometime requires special software to read and access.
  • Soft copy is beneficial for environment as it cuts the cost of papers, ink and printing. Hard copy requires all this material to get the shape.
  • Although soft copy is becoming more popular than hard copy but still hard copy is used as a medium of evidence in case of legal disputes.
  • Manipulating with the material of soft copy is easy than that of hard copy.
  • Soft copy is a digital and electronic form of material while hard copy is a physical and tangible form of material.
  • Electricity or any kind of power is necessary for soft copy, which is not required in case of hard copy.
  • Hard copy is a printed document while soft copy is  an unprinted digital document.
  • A soft copy can be shared with others by way of transferring via USB or external disk drives or attaching via email or by way of cloud sharing. Hard copy can be shared with others by way of getting another photocopy.
  • You can make as many copies of soft copy as you can. This requires simple copy and paste and requires to additional cost. A copy of hard copy means another print out of the same document that requires additional cost.
  • Hard copy requires to extra gadgets for reading purpose except the paper on which it is printed while soft copy can’t be read out without any word processing, database or presentation program subject to the format of files or data.
  • Parceling hard copy to another country requires time and cost while soft copy can be shared easily by simply attach with email or through cloud sharing. Hard copy can be shared via fax as well but this also requires some processing methods of soft copy.
  • Teleprinter pages, books, computer printouts and likewise pages and printouts are the best examples of hard copy. While PDF, doc files, xlx files, presentation files, etc. are the best examples of soft copy.
  • Although digital signature system for soft copy has been introduced but still the signatures on hard copy are accepted as authentic source.
  • Hard copy provides more authenticity as compared to the soft copy.
  • Hard copies rely on ink and paper and soft copies rely upon computers.
  • Hard copies require a whole lot of space and aren’t readily portable, while soft copies don’t consume real space.
  • Hard copies are physical paper copies and soft copies are digital, digitally written copies.
  • Hard copies demand a whole lot of time to visit various areas, whereas soft copies readily sent anywhere without taking any additional time.
  • A hard copy is convertible in the kind of a soft copy by means of a scanner but a soft copy is printed out on a newspaper with a printer.
  • Hard copies are expensive to create and soft copies are expensive.
  • A hard copy can’t be amended while a soft copy can be changed or manipulated quite easily on a computer screen.
  • A hard copy can’t be preserved for quite a long time and is usually a victim of wear and tear while a soft copy can be preserved for quite a while.
  • A hard copy may not be easily copied and a soft copy can be readily copied in a couple of seconds.
  • A hard copy carries weight as a soft copy doesn’t have any weight.


There’s zero similarity between them besides them being transmitters of information (data). Though they are convertible into one another, they still maintain their own unique value and attributes. A hard copy is an old means of transmission of information as a soft copy is a brand new manner. In the age of the 21st century, however, a soft copy is more widespread. But hard copies have their particular significance in regards to written information.

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