#### Introduction

In the digital age, the vast amount of information stored within a computer system can be both awe-inspiring and overwhelming. When I was a police officer, we used the following information to explain to both prosecutors and defence lawyers, why it was not possible to print everything on a computer. As lawyers, it is crucial to understand the practical limitations when dealing with data, especially in cases involving stolen information or data breaches. In this blog post, I will explore why it is virtually impossible to print all the information found in a computer and provide some eye-opening calculations to emphasize the enormity of this task.

#### The Byte and Its Implications

The math required to calculate how much paper you need is fairly simple. Every character typed on a keyboard requires 1 byte of storage. To put things into perspective, a typical Microsoft Word document consists of approximately 500 words, which is equivalent to roughly 3,000 characters. One megabyte (1MB) is 1 million bytes. Based on this estimation, we can deduce that 1 million characters would require over 300 pages of paper to print. Keep in mind that these calculations only pertain to text-based data and do not account for images or videos. You can buy a 500-page stack of paper almost anywhere. They measure about 5 centimetres in height or 2.5 inches. Using theses numbers, we can calculate the paper needs for any size of data.

#### Scaling Up: From Megabytes to Gigabytes

To delve deeper into the magnitude of the challenge, let’s consider the concept of storage units. One gigabyte (1GB) is 1,000 times larger than a megabyte (1MB). Hence, if 1MB results in over 300 pages, 1GB would encompass more than 300,000 pages of printed text. To visualize this staggering amount, imagine a stack of paper stretching approximately 30 meters in height!

#### Expanding the Scope

Now, let’s apply these numbers to a more comprehensive scenario. If we multiply the number of pages per gigabyte (300,000) by 100 (100GB is typical for a data breach), the result is a mind-boggling 30 million pages! To put this figure into context, imagine a towering stack of paper measuring over 3 kilometres in height (1.86 miles). To provide a relatable comparison, this height surpasses the impressive CN Tower in Toronto, which stands at 553 meters (more than 5 times). Hence the image of this blog:)

And that’s just 100 gigabytes. A typical hard drive these days is 2 terabytes or 2000 gigabytes! (20 times larger or 60 kilometres)

#### The Time Factor

To further emphasize the impracticality of printing such an enormous amount of data, let’s consider the time it would take to complete the task. Assuming a steady pace of one page per second, it would require approximately 1 year to print the aforementioned 30 million pages. This staggering time frame highlights the overwhelming nature of the endeavour, making it clear that printing all the information found in a computer is an arduous and virtually impossible task.

#### Conclusion

In the realm of law, dealing with evidence, data breaches or stolen information often involves grappling with massive amounts of digital data. It is important for lawyers to grasp the inherent limitations when it comes to printing such vast quantities of information. The calculations presented here serve as a stark reminder of the unfeasibility of physically reproducing the contents of a computer on paper. As legal professionals, it is vital to adapt to the digital era and develop strategies to navigate the complexities of digital data effectively. The advantage here is that if you want to show that the data stolen in a data breach is large, these calculations can help your case. I’ve provided this service in the form of opinion reports.

If you have any questions or want to book a free consultation, contact me on LinkedIn. It is the best place to reach me.