Difference Between Hard Copy and Soft Copy

Hard Copy Vs Soft Copy

What is a Hard Copy?

A hard copy is a printed form of a digital document file from a computer on paper or any other material that may be transparent. The output prints on paper in a hard copy- thus, sometimes referred to as a permanent copy. It may be a photograph, text, drawing, or other types of printable files. They exist as physical objects, and we can touch them- thus called hard copies. So we can also call it a physical copy. A few examples are Books, Newspapers, Printed Document Files, Notebooks, etc.

Even in the digital world, hard copies are still important for various reasons. In a few cases, the hard copies may act as a backup whenever someone loses or accidentally destroys their digital documents. Also, some people find it extremely easy to keep track of and distribute hard copies. In some instances, people can also use these copies in the form of templates or schemas marked up with a pencil or a pen.

What is a Soft Copy?

A soft copy is a form of digital document file saved on a computer or drive. It is an electronic version of any document- not printed on paper. You can open and edit a soft copy document using software programs like database programs, processing programs, presentation software, and many more- depending on the document type. The output of a soft copy resides in computers, USB drives, etc. – thus referred to as a temporary copy. A user cannot touch the soft copy because it is virtual. Thus, it is also known as a virtual copy of a file/document.

One can easily share/send soft copies over a network connection like email, social media, etc. It makes them a more cost-efficient and feasible mode of communication as compared to hard copies. Some examples include Ebooks, ENews papers, scanned notes, PDF notes, etc. Soft copies stay less vulnerable and more durable in the long run than hard copies. One can easily fold, twist, burn, tear, or destroy hard copies. A soft copy stays immune to destruction when a user creates multiple backups and places it in a proper hardware structure.

Difference Between Hard Copy and Soft Copy


Hard Copy

Soft Copy


One can easily touch a hard copy because it is a physical document- received on any tangible medium like paper or flex.

One cannot touch a soft copy because it is a virtual document- intangible but easy to look at on a computer screen.

Type of Copies

Hard copies are physically written or printed copies on paper.

Soft copies constitute the electronically saved documents.

Information Storage

A hard copy stores data and information in the form of physical files- it may be images, texts, photographs, and more.

A soft copy has data and information in the form of virtual files saved on a computer or a drive.


You can preserve a hard copy for too long because it stays subjected to wear and tear.

You can keep a soft copy preserved for as long as you want. Placing it in a rigid hardware structure keeps it permanently safe.

Electronic Medium

It does not require any electronic medium for reading and displaying the content.

It is a prerequisite for a soft copy to have an electronic medium for reading and displaying the electronically saved content.


It is a temporary copy.

It is a permanent copy.


Hard copies are portable in physical form, compiled in files. But it is sometimes very difficult to carry multiple documents this way.

Soft copies are easily portable in USB drives, SD cards, and more. They are not very difficult to carry- provided that the user doesn’t lose the drive.


Hard copies consume a lot of space in physical form.

Soft copies do not consume any physical space, even with large files. They consume virtual spaces and memory.


The quality of a document’s or file’s hard copy depends a lot on a few factors. The medium (paper, plastic, flex, etc.), type of ink, colors used, and printer make all the difference.

The quality of a soft copy of a document/file depends completely on the storage device or the computer.


One cannot easily alter or manipulate a hard copy directly on the same document. Even if you do, the changes are visible most of the time.

It is very easy to make any changes and alterations on a soft copy using software and tools using any computer device.


Hard copies of files carry some weight in physical form.

Soft copies, in any amount, do not carry any weight with them in a physical form.


One does not require any specific software for storing, displaying, and accessing documents.

A soft copy requires specific tools and software for storing, displaying, accessing, and editing documents and files.


You can share a hard copy with another user by creating a photocopy of the original document (colorful or black and white).

You can share a soft copy with another user by transferring it via external disk drives, USB, email, or clouds.

Medium of Writing

It takes ink and paper to write and generate hard copies.

A user only requires a keyboard and a computing device to write and generate soft copies.

Time Taken to Create Copies

It may take some time to generate multiple copies and backups for a hard copy.

Creating multiple copies is not easy as one can easily copy and paste the soft copy of any document.

Power-Driven Medium

One does not require a power-driven medium for reading a hard copy.

One always requires a power-driven medium for reading a soft copy.


A hard copy does not require an interface like a mobile, a computer, etc., for reading and displaying information.

A soft copy requires some interface like a computer or a mobile to display and read information.


One requires natural resources like paper from trees for creating a hard copy.

Soft copies are more environment-friendly as they require less paper. But the drives and E-waste generated from computers can be harmful and non-biodegradable.


You can easily convert a hard copy into a soft copy by scanning it.

You can easily convert a soft copy into a hard copy by printing it.


Generating hard copies on paper can be expensive. For instance, colored photocopies and photographs can be more expensive than normal prints.

It is comparatively inexpensive to generate and share soft copies.


Hard copy mostly stores official information.

Soft copy mostly stores private information.


A few examples of hard copies include various documents like official letters, job advertisements, attested degrees, business contracts, property papers, paperback editions of magazines, books, etc.

A few examples of soft copies include XLX files, PDF files, Word documents, Presentation files, Scanned copies of a hard copy document.

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