Understanding The Difference Between Hard Copy and Soft Copy

5 min readMar 24, 2022

Table of content:

  • What is a Hard Copy?
  • Characteristics Of Hard Copy
  • What Is A Soft Copy?
  • Characteristics Of Soft Copy
  • Key Difference Between Hard Copy and Soft Copy

Information and data are essential especially in today’s world. Ideas, opinions, or knowledge pass through several channels before reaching its final destination. They can be transmitted in largely two forms- Hard Copy and Soft Copy. Let’s understand about these two forms in detail.


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What is a Hard Copy?

A printed document file is called a ‘hardcopy’ because it physically exists as an actual piece of paper. Hard copies include paper books, magazines, newspapers, etc. A printed document file is called a ‘hardcopy’ because it physically exists as an actual piece of paper. Since hard copy is a physical document, it can get subjected to wear and tear.

Examples of Hardcopy are: newspapers, printouts, magazines, or anything that is put up on paper.

Characteristics Of Hard Copy

  1. Since it is in physical form, hard copy is easy to share and can be read anytime without any need for internet or computer, mobile phone etc.
  2. There is no need of external disk drives.
  3. Storage of valuable assets in file folders as hardcopy for safekeeping, such as legal papers, financial records, and customer contracts.
  4. Business documents are usually archived in physical form to create a tangible medium.


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What Is A Soft Copy?

A soft copy is a file stored online or in an electronic medium involving no physical space. The digital documents can be read without having to print anything out. A digital version of a physical object such as a printed book contains both the electronic text and any accompanying images.

Examples of Softcopy are: e-books, e-magazines, e-newspaper, digitalized content.

Characteristics Of Soft Copy

  1. It is easier to alter or modify the content material within an e-book on a personal computer using special software programs.
  2. A soft copy of a record is likely to stay longer compared to its hardcopy version as it can be easily modified or changed and sustained in the computer memory for a longer time.
  3. When you move a soft copy from one place to another using a network connection or USB drives, it moves into its new location easily.
  4. Physical paper copies may get destroyed, eaten, or torn. However, knowledge saved in an electronic version (such as a PDF file, presentation files, doc files) stays in the memory device so it won’t be easily harmed.


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Key Difference Between Hard Copy and Soft Copy

Hard copy refers to a document that has been printed on paper. It can be viewed in black and white or color, depending upon the type of printer used. A hard copy can also be referred to as a ‘hard’ file. On the other hand, soft copy refers to a document that has been generated by software such as Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat.

S. No.Hard CopySoft CopiesTangibilityIt’s somewhat easy to read a printed file because it is a physical object. You can hold it, turn pages, and look at pictures. It is in tangible form.With an e-book reader, you don’t get any tactile feedback when turning pages. Instead, you just tap buttons on the screen. It’s an intangible medium.EnvironmentPaper from trees causes much harm to the environment.Everything is in digital form and doesn’t harm the environment.NaturePrinted documents include paper form documents like books, magazines, newspapers, etc.Electronic files (or soft copies) constitute the electronically stored documents. Example- e-newspaperType of ObjectsCopies on paper can be physical objects like books, magazines, newspapers, etc., which contain prints on paper.In contrast, an electronic version (eBook) contains digital content such as text, graphic arts, image format, videos, audio, etc., which may be stored either locally or remotely from where they were created.Space for StorageHard copies take up a lot of physical space.A soft copy does not require any extra storage space for its file; instead, it consumes memory space. It requires virtual spaces and memory.NecessitiesTo create something tangible such as a book requires ink and paper and an output device like a printer. Writing and generating soft copies require only a computer and a keyboard for most people.Time ConsumptionYou’ll need to spend some time generating multiple copies and backu­ps for a physical printout. It’s not difficult to create multiple copies of documents because it would be easier for someone else to just copy and paste the original document into their own computer. Hence, it is faster comparatively.Display InterfaceHard copies don’t need interfaces such as mobiles, computers, etc. for reading and displaying information either. A display screen using an electronic device such as a personal digital assistant (PDA), smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop PC, etc.UsageMost hard copies store official documents like contracts, property papers, business contracts, paperback editions, handwritten documents, and invoices.Most soft copies store information for private purposes like email posts, email updates, or a digital document file.

Summing Up

Newspapers and magazines remain important sources for news even though we now get most of our news from online sources like social networks and blogs. Hard copy files usually serve as backups when people lose or accidentally delete their digital files. However, they can be folded, twisted, burned, torn, or destroyed. Hence, soft copy can be good formats to store information. These can be sent via an electronic media such as e-mail etc. and are easier for people to access. This article brings forth various points related to these two types.

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