Hard Copy Vs Soft Copy 2024 – Difference Between Hard Copy & Soft Copy


Hard copy VS Soft copy has always been one of the most debatable topics. Some prefer hard copies whereas others prefer soft copies for use. Today we shall discuss Hard copy vs Soft copy as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the same.

What is a Hard Copy? – Hard Copy Meaning

Whatever document gets printed on paper or any other viable material is called a hard copy. In a hard copy, documents get printed on a physical piece of paper that is tangible. This can often be considered a permanent copy too. Hard-copy documents can be touched and felt. Some primary hard-copy examples are Newspapers, textbooks, magazines, notebooks, printed document files, etc.

What is a Soft Copy? – Soft Copy Meaning

Soft copy refers to a piece of document that exists only in digital form. Unlike a hard copy, a soft copy can only be accessed through a computer, laptop, or smartphone. These are non-tangible documents that can’t be touched or felt. You can carry soft copies on any storage device or can transfer them through email. Initially, these soft-copy documents were considered temporary copies. However, since the inclusion of digital signatures, soft copy documents can be considered official documents too. Digitally signed soft copy documents are as good as manually signed hard copies. Some primary soft copy examples are eBooks, e-newspaper, PDF agreements, etc.

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Difference Between Hard Copy And Soft Copy (Hard Copy VS Soft Copy)

S. No.Hard CopySoft Copy
1.A hard copy is a physically printed document.A soft copy is a non-printed document.
2.This is a tangible document.This is a non-tangible document.
3.Hard copies can be displayed or read without the requirement of any computer, mobile display, etc.Soft copies can be ready only through an electronic medium such as a computer, mobile, or kindle.
4.Hard copies are not portable since they can’t be carried along alwaysSoft copies are portable and can’t be accessed anywhere through the required electronic medium.
5.Soft copies can be ready only through an electronic medium such as a computer, mobile, or Kindle.Soft copies are stored in storage devices or the cloud.
6.Hard copies can only be transferred physically, and hand in handSoft copies can be transferred easily through email or messengers.
7.Hard copies are comparatively costly to generateSoft copies aren’t expensive and can be generated easily
8.Hard copies are preferred in official worksSoft copies are usually preferred for private purposes. However official use of the same has increased since the work-from-home was introduced.
9.Hard copies can be converted into soft copies by scanningSoft copies can be converted into hard copies through printing
10.Legal hard copy documents are only valid if signed physicallyLegal soft copy documents are only valid if signed digitally
11.Hard copies are not editableSoft copies can be edited through software
12.Data can’t be stolen unless the document is misplacedData can be stolen through a cyber-attack
13.The hard copy examples include agreements, textbooks, newspapers, magazines, etc.The soft copy examples include eBooks, e-newspaper, PDFs, Soft copy agreements, etc.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Soft Copy and Hard Copy

Hard copies and soft copies are inversely proportionate to each other. They can be used interchangeably most of the time. However, they both have their own advantages and disadvantages which are discussed below.

Advantages of Hard Copy

Hard copies have their own advantages. You can carry them with you physically and can access or read the same almost instantly. Below are a few advantages of hard copies.

  • You can carry it with you everywhere and can access the same easily.
  • No need to use a laptop or smartphone to access the same.
  • You can keep the same for your personal records in the long term
  • You can write additional notes if required in a physical document hard copy
  • You can pass on the same to someone else who doesn’t have access to the internet or a smartphone

Disadvantages of Hard Copy

What comes with advantages has a few disadvantages too. Hard copies are nothing different. You can carry them physically however there is always a chance of getting them stolen too. Below are a few disadvantages of hard copies.

  • Hard copies are tangible in nature and hence can always be lost or stolen.
  •  Hard copies are usually printed on paper and there is always a chance of wear and tear.
  • Hard copies are not portable and hence can only be accessed by a person who has possession of the same.
  • You can’t edit a hard-copy document.
  • Hard copies are tangible and therefore need actual storage space.

Advantages of Soft Copy

Soft copies are portable as compared to hard copies. They can be accessed almost anywhere with the help of a computer or smartphone. Below are a few advantages of soft copies.

  •  Soft copies are non-tangible hence no need to carry them physically.
  •  They can be transferred online through email or messaging apps.
  •  Soft copies can be accessed through a PC or mobile phone easily.
  •  Soft copies can’t be stolen since they can be stored in password-protected files and devices
  •  Soft copies can be edited easily through designated software.
  •  Soft copies don’t require physical storage space.

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Disadvantages of Soft Copy

Unlike hard copies, soft copies can’t be given to a person who doesn’t have access to a smartphone or the internet. Though they are suitable for many, still few people don’t find soft copies handy. Below are a few disadvantages of soft copies.

  •  Soft copies can be accessed only through smartphones or PC.
  • You need an active internet connection to transfer or access the transferred soft copy documents.
  •  Legal soft copy documents are only valid if digitally signed.
  • Soft copy documents are stored on a PC or cloud hence there is always a chance of a cyber-attack resulting in the theft of confidential documents.
  • Soft copies are not accepted everywhere therefore can’t be considered a permanent document source.

Which Is Better To Use:- Hard Copy Vs Soft Copy?

The preference for hard copy or soft copy depends from person to person. Some want to have their documents or books physically in their hand. However, others prefer the portable medium of documents which can be accessed in soft copies. The advantages, Disadvantages, and Differences between hard copy and soft copy are already mentioned above. This clearly defines that both types of documents have their own types and uses. Below are a few points which will explain which type of documents are better, hard copy or soft copy.

  •  Hard copies are preferred by users who want to store their documents physically with them.
  •  Hard copies are beneficial when it comes to legal documentation.
  •  Hard copies provide a physical look and feel, unlike soft copy documents.
  •  Hard copies can be preferred if the number of pages included in a documentation type is less.
  •  Soft copies are preferred by users who don’t want to carry documents physically.
  •  Soft copies are better for personal use.
  • Soft copies can be stored in smartphones or cloud storage, unlike hard copies which require actual storage space.
  • Soft copies are preferred where pages included in the documentation are higher in volume.
  •  Promoting the use of soft copies leads to a reduction in the cutting of trees.
  •  Using minimum paper documents helps in reducing carbon footprint.
  •  Soft copy users don’t need to worry about shredding paper documents.

What Device Produces Soft Copy & Hard Copy?

Hard copies are generated through output devices like printers, typewriters, Fax, etc. These devices are preferred usually in legal documentation. Most of the agreements and contracts are preferably printed in hard copies. This is required to keep all such documents safe in physical form. Anyone who is willing to carry their documents in physical form can use these devices to acquire hard copies of the same.

Soft copies are generated through computer software. Primary examples of soft copy devices are email attachments, messages, screen pictures, Kindle, etc. Since soft copies exist in digital format, they can be accessed easily through a computer, smartphone, kindle, etc.

Conclusion- Hard copy VS Soft copy

We discussed various characteristics of hard copies as well as soft copies. Both of them have their own advantages and disadvantages. The usage of the same varies from user to user as per their preference. After reading the aforesaid content, you shall be able to easily differentiate between hard copy VS soft copy. You can choose the document type basis your preference.

Frequently Asked Questions- Hard Copy VS Soft Copy

What is Hard Copy & Soft Copy?

A hard copy is a document that exists or is printed in physical form. For example- Newspaper, Textbook, etc. Whereas a soft copy is a document that exists in a digital form. For example- eBooks, E-papers, PDFs, etc.

Is PDF Soft Copy?

Since PDF documents are stored in digital format hence, they are indeed soft copy documents.

Is the Printer a Hard Copy?

A printer is an output device that can be used to create/print a hard-copy document.

Which Devices Produce Soft Copies?

Soft copies can be created using a scanner or OCR readers. Any scanned document can be converted into a PDF document which is called a soft copy.

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