Difference between Hard Copy and Soft Copy
Key Difference: A hard copy is referred to a printed digital document file on paper, whereas soft copy is an unprinted electronic document file that exists in any digital form like in personal computers, pen drives, DVD’s, etc.
Data and information are very important in the areas of study and knowledge. Most of the times, information or data needs to be shared or distributed. Many times, information goes through various channels before reaching its final destination. There are various forms of transferring information. In the world of electronics, the exchange of information can swiftly take place with the help of a hard copy and a soft copy. Many people confuse the two. They both are different from each other. See Hardware Vs. Software.
A hard copy is a name given to a copy that is generated by printing any document on a paper or any other element’s surface. A hard copy can be easily touched as it is received on a tangible medium like paper. One does not need any power-driven medium to read this kind of file. You must have used various prints outs or copies for various purposes like college assignments or for official reports. One can refer to them whenever he wants. It is a physical entity.
On the other hand, a soft copy is stored in a memory and it is read by displaying it on a screen. As the file is stored in memory, it is not touchable. It can be considered as a virtual copy. It needs to be accompanied by memory. For example, when a file is saved in Microsoft Word, then it is termed as a soft copy. You can view it, by opening the file.
Also see: System Software and Application Software
It is referred to as a soft copy as you cannot touch it and you have to read it on the screen. In case, the computer shuts down, you are unable to read it. Some kinds of specific software are required to store and display a soft copy. The same file can be printed by using an electronic printer connected to the computer. The printed copy of the document is now referred to as a hard copy. Thus, a hard copy is preceded by a soft copy.
The main difference between a hard and soft copy is that unlike hard copy, a soft copy always requires an electronic medium to be read and displayed. Even if you have the data in a pen drive, it needs to be displayed using a computer or any other compatible display medium. Both have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. A hard copy can be used instantly, whereas a soft copy can only be read with the help of an electronic display device. A soft copy is preferred for the easy alterations that can be made on it. However, it depends upon the specific requirements, based on which hard or soft copies can be generated.