What’s the difference between scanning and photocopying?

An office photocopier and scanner are very similar machines. They are so similar, in fact, that some people believe they perform the same functions. But this isn’t the case. Both a copier and a scanner have key features that differ from each other. It’s important to learn and understand these differences so you can make the right choice in which machine is best for your office needs, and when to use each function.

What is Photocopying?

The photocopier machine has been a staple in offices around the world since the 1970s. Though technology has evolved since then, where generally photocopiers, scanners and printers are combined in an all-in-one machine, many businesses still find a copier’s primary function essential.

A photocopier is designed to copy documents onto a blank sheet of paper to create new copies from the original source. This allows for the distribution of the document and can be done without needing to be connected to a computer.

How Does a Photocopier Work?

Photocopiers are very quick and easy to use. The original document is placed either on the flat glass surface, also known as the platen, or in the feeder. Depending on how advanced it is, there will typically be a set of buttons on the machine to select how many copies you want to print, the quality of the copies and whether to print in black and white or colour. After you’ve selected your options, the machine will print duplicate copies onto one or more blank sheets of paper.

What is Scanning?

Though the first image scanner was developed to be used with computers in 1957, they weren’t widely available for offices until the early 1990s. Scanners quickly proved to be very popular, and even more so when the move toward ‘paperless offices’ grew. Even today, a scanner is still one of the most efficient pieces of office equipment.

Scanners are able to scan printed text, handwritten documents and images, creating a digital version of the original document that can be stored on a computer, phone or tablet and sent to whoever needs it. 

How Does a Scanner Work?

A scanner works in a similar way to a photocopier. Place the original document or image on the platen or in the feeder, and then select the button to scan the page. A digital copy of the image will be stored and transferred to a computer or to a USB or memory card, depending on the type of scanning machine you have.

Photocopying vs Scanning: What’s the Difference?

The biggest difference between photocopying and scanning is that photocopying creates more paper copies of the original documents, while scanning creates digital copies. Generally, scanners are easier to maintain as they don’t require ink, toner or paper. This also can make them a more cost-effective choice. However, you’re more likely to run into technical problems with a scanner and will need to have some basic computer knowledge to resolve any issues with accessing your digital documents.

Both machines offer a speedy service and produce high-quality documents that should satisfy most businesses. While there are a variety of photocopiers on the market with different paper capacities and sizes, scanners are able to be more compact since you don’t need to manually insert pages. 

Photocopying vs Scanning: When Should I Use Each?

As a business owner, if you’re thinking about buying either a copier or a scanner, you’ll need to consider your end goal. If you still frequently use paper documents to distribute among employees, keep records or send to customers and clients, then a photocopier will be the best option. However, if you want to go paperless, then a scanner will be better suited and is a great way to reduce your usage and storage of paper.
These days, multifunctional printers, scanners and copiers are the most popular choice for modern offices as it combines all functions into one device. Take a look at our office printers and office photocopiers for more information about the different types of machines for small, medium and large businesses.

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