A hard copy is a physical copy of a document, image, or other digital data. It generally refers to a printed copy of a text file or photograph. Since hard copies of documents are no longer editable, they can be considered permanent versions.
There are many reasons why a hard copy of a document is needed. First, printing a hard copy creates a physical backup of the document at that time. It can be stored separately and referenced later. It can be delivered physically and be viewed by anyone easily since no digital device is required. Many tax and legal filings require a hard copy of a document.
Conversely, a soft copy is a digital version of a file that can be opened and edited by software. Unlike a hard copy, which is permanent, a soft copy is editable and can be changed at any time. It can also be deleted by accident, which makes having a hard copy as a backup a good idea in many cases.