Hard copy

Updated: 08/16/2021 by Computer Hope
Person writing with pen and paper.

Alternatively called a paper copy, a hard copy is any information that is printed on paper. Hard copies allow data to be read without needing a computer and are often required when someone needs to sign a document.

How is a hard copy produced by a computer?

A hard copy can be created using a printer (e.g., dot matrix printer, inkjet printer, laser printer, etc.) and a typewriter.

The quality of the hard copy is determined by DPI (dots per inch) of the printer being used. Typically, a laser printer has the highest quality.


You can use the Ctrl+P or Command+P keyboard shortcut to print a page.

How is a hard copy put back into a computer?

To create a digital version of a hard copy (soft copy), an optical scanner or OCR (optical character recognition) is used. An OCR reproduction of a text document can be modified in a word processor.

Why would someone need to make a hard copy?

As more and more people move to digital and paperless solutions, there are not many reasons to make a hard copy. However, hard copies still find some uses which we've listed below.

  1. They are useful when a paper needs to be signed.
  2. They are needed for someone who isn't always able to access a computer or digital device.
  3. They are needed for reports for school.
  4. They are needed when a print out for legal filing or taxes that requires a hard copy.
  5. They are needed for copies of receipts, proof of purchase, or completed service.

What's the difference between a hard copy and a soft copy?

A hard copy is physical, such as a tax form, printed document, or textbook. A soft copy is a digital version of these media that is kept on a storage device.

Output, Photocopy, Print, Printer terms, Printout, Print preview, Scanner terms, Soft copy, Word processor terms