Difference Wiki

Printer vs. Scanner: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 20, 2024
A printer is a device that produces physical copies of digital documents, while a scanner converts physical documents into digital format.

Key Differences

A printer is a peripheral device connected to computers, primarily used for producing hard copies of texts and images on paper. Conversely, a scanner is a device that captures images from photographic prints, posters, magazine pages, and similar sources for computer editing and display.
Printers work by putting ink onto paper to create text or images, using technologies like inkjet or laser printing. Scanners, on the other hand, function by taking a picture of the item to be scanned and converting it into a digital image that can be viewed or edited on a computer.
Printers are essential for creating physical copies of electronic documents, important for both personal and professional use. Scanners serve the opposite purpose, digitizing physical documents or images for storage, sharing, or electronic editing.
In the modern digital world, printers facilitate the transition from digital to physical, playing a crucial role in offices and homes. Scanners, contrastingly, help in archiving and sharing physical documents electronically, preserving them in digital form.
Printers are evaluated on parameters like print quality, speed, and cost-per-page, while scanners are assessed based on their resolution, color accuracy, and scanning speed. Each serves distinct, yet complementary roles in digital and physical document handling.

Comparison Chart

Primary Function

Produces physical copies from digital files
Converts physical documents into digital images


Essential for printing documents, photos, etc.
Used for digitizing documents, photos for electronic use


Uses inkjet or laser technology
Utilizes photo-sensing devices


Physical paper document or image
Digital file (e.g., PDF, JPEG)

Key Features

Print quality, speed, ink usage
Scan resolution, color accuracy, scan speed

Printer and Scanner Definitions


In a broader sense, a printer can refer to a person or company that engages in the printing business.
The printer delivered the wedding invitations on time.


In a broader sense, a scanner refers to someone who scans or examines something thoroughly.
As a scanner of antique books, she spends hours in old libraries.


Printer also refers to a device that produces prints from a digital camera.
I used a photo printer to print pictures from my vacation.


In computing, scanner refers to software that interprets and digitizes printed or handwritten documents.
The OCR scanner software converted the printed text into editable digital format.


A printer is a device that prints text or illustrations on paper.
The office printer is constantly busy, printing reports and memos.


In a medical context, a scanner refers to a machine that scans the body, like an MRI or CT scanner.
The doctor reviewed the images from the MRI scanner to diagnose the injury.


Historically, a printer was someone who operated a printing press.
Benjamin Franklin worked as a printer before becoming a founding father.


Scanner can also mean a radio receiver that continuously changes frequencies to pick up signals.
The police used a scanner to listen to different communication channels.


In computing, a printer refers to software that manages the output of documents to a print device.
The printer driver needed an update to fix the printing issue.


A scanner is a device that scans documents and converts them into digital data.
I scanned our family photos using a high-resolution scanner.


One that prints, especially one whose occupation is printing.


One that scans
A scanner of newspapers.


A device that prints text or graphics on paper.


A 3D printer.


One who makes prints.


The operator of a printing press or the owner of a printing business; (metonymy) any printing business.


A device, usually attached to a computer, used to print text or images onto paper; an analogous device capable of producing three-dimensional objects.


One who prints; especially, one who prints books, newspapers, engravings, etc., a compositor; a typesetter; a pressman.


Someone whose occupation is printing


(computer science) an output device that prints the results of data processing


A machine that prints


Can printers and scanners be combined in one device?

Yes, there are multifunction devices that include both printing and scanning functions.

What types of printers are most common?

Inkjet and laser printers are the most common types.

What is a scanner?

A device that converts physical documents into digital format.

What is the main use of a scanner?

To digitize physical documents for electronic storage and editing.

How does a scanner work?

It captures images through a photo-sensing device and converts them into digital files.

How does a printer work?

It works by applying ink or toner onto paper to reproduce text and images.

Are 3D printers a type of printer?

Yes, 3D printers create three-dimensional objects and are a specialized type of printer.

Are there portable printers and scanners?

Yes, there are compact, portable models available for both.

Can scanners scan negatives or slides?

Specialized scanners can scan film negatives or slides.

What is a printer?

A device that creates hard copies of digital documents.

What are the environmental considerations for printers and scanners?

Printers and scanners should be used and disposed of responsibly to minimize environmental impact, considering factors like ink cartridge recycling and energy efficiency.

Are there security concerns with printers and scanners?

Yes, especially in networked devices, as they can be vulnerable to unauthorized access or data breaches.

How has technology improved printers and scanners?

Advances include higher resolutions, faster speeds, lower costs, and features like cloud printing and mobile connectivity.

Do printers come with wireless connectivity?

Many modern printers offer wireless connectivity options like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

What is DPI in the context of scanners?

In scanners, DPI measures the resolution and detail of the scanned image.

Can scanners convert text into editable format?

Yes, with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology.

Can printers print on materials other than paper?

Some specialized printers can print on materials like fabric, plastic, and metal.

Can scanners produce color images?

Yes, most scanners can scan documents in both color and black-and-white.

What is DPI in the context of printers?

DPI stands for Dots Per Inch, indicating the resolution of a printer.

What is the lifespan of a typical printer and scanner?

The lifespan varies depending on usage and maintenance, but on average, they can last several years.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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