Difference Between Hard Copy and Soft Copy


Main Difference

A hard copy is a digital document file, printed on paper and a soft copy is an electronic document that is not printed on paper but is present in a digital form like in USB drives and computers, etc.

Hard Copy vs. Soft Copy

As we live in an information age, data is very crucial for us. Data is mostly shared worldwide through different methods of transmission. Both the hard and soft copies are used worldwide for distributing information globally. But the main difference lies in their method of sharing information. A hard copy is a physical entity that can be touched as it is made of paper while a soft copy is untouchable and a virtual copy of the information, stored in an electronic device’s memory.


A hard copy takes plenty of time as it is a material that needs to be delivered via mail, whereas a soft copy makes exchanging information anywhere in the world swiftly with the click of a button. A soft copy precedes a soft copy; for instance, you type some data on a computer screen that is a soft copy. Next, you print it all out and then you get a tangible form of soft copy on paper – which is a hard copy. A hard copy is available to read at any time, anywhere; while a soft copy always requires an electronic medium to display information. It can be any kind of electronic medium, like personal computers, cloud drives, adobe reader, etc. Making alterations on a hard copy is difficult while it is easy to alter any kind of wording on a soft copy through computer programs.


A soft copy can be shared via the worldwide web with the help of the Internet within seconds, but a hard copy may take time from a few hours to some days or months to transfer it via mail post service. A hard copy requires a scanner or a printer to print information whereas a hard copy depends on the use of computers. A handwritten document page is a hard copy and an electronically written document on a computer display screen is a soft copy.

Comparison Chart

Hard CopySoft Copy
A hard copy is physical copy of the information.A Soft copy is not physically present.
Mostly used for official information.Mostly used for private purposes.
A hard copy is very expensive to make.A soft copy is cheap to make.
Printed on paper.Typed and stored on a computer hard drive (memory).
Inconvertible into a soft copy.Convertible into a hard copy.
Method of Transmission
Mail post, hand to hand.Electronic, digital, internet.
Can be read with bare eyes, without the need for any device.An electronic device such as a computer, software on a cellphone, a stable internet connection, etc.
Hard to store.Easy to store.
It has a lot of weight.It has no weight.

What is a Hard Copy?

The term hard copy implies an informative, written document that has a physical medium. It requires paper and ink to write records of information. It is an ancient method of preserving information in a physical form. This method of transmission of information does not require an internet connection or software to read it. Hard copies are also very costly to make and are difficult to be altered. Such copies are highly in demand in the field of business, education and even in property contracts because such copies bear official stamps, attestation, and signatures – making them highly credible. These copies also require a lot of space to carry them. A hard copy is convertible into a soft copy through the use of a scanner machine. As it is weighty and physically present in the paper form, a hard copy takes a lot of time to travel to another place.


Official documents like job announcements, official letters with stamps, attested degrees, property papers, business contracts, paperback editions of books, magazines, etc.

What is a Soft Copy?

A soft copy is an unprinted yet printable copy of data (information) that is typed into a computer’s word processing program and is only accessible on computer software. It is not physically present but stored in a computer memory or a USB drive memory. Such a copy can be transferred in the form of a digital file from one personal computer to another via the internet, a data cable, a USB drive, or a floppy disk or CD. This copy doesn’t require a large physical storage area to store it and is quite cheap to produce.


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

Key Differences

  1. Hard copies depend on paper and ink and soft copies depend on computers.
  2. Hard copies take a lot of space and are not easily portable, while soft copies do not consume real space.
  3. Hard copies are physical paper copies and soft copies are electronic, digitally written copies.
  4. Hard copies require a lot of time to travel to different places, whereas soft copies easily sent anywhere without taking any extra time.
  5. A hard copy is convertible in the form of a soft copy through a scanner but a soft copy is printed out on a paper with a printer.
  6. Hard copies are expensive to make and soft copies are least expensive.
  7. A hard copy cannot be amended while a soft copy can be altered or manipulated quite easily on a computer screen.
  8. A hard copy cannot be preserved for a long time and is usually a victim of wear and tear while a soft copy can be preserved for a long time.
  9. A hard copy cannot be easily copied and a soft copy can be easily copied in a few seconds.
  10. A hard copy carries weight while a soft copy has no weight.


There is zero similarity between them apart from them being transmitters of information (data). Although they are convertible into each other, they still hold their own unique value and characteristics. A hard copy is an old way of transmission of information while a soft copy is a new way. In the era of the 21st century, however, a soft copy is more prevalent. But hard copies have their own importance when it comes to written information.

Harlon Moss

Harlon currently works as a quality moderator and content writer for Difference Wiki. He graduated from the University of California in 2010 with a degree in Computer Science. Follow him on Twitter @HarlonMoss