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The Risks of Guesstimating: Part One - How Many Pages of Paper Do I Have?

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Determining how many pages you have depends on the scenario, so it can be dangerous to just guesstimate. Clients ask us all the time to provide estimates on copy or scan projects, which is fairly easy to provide within a 10% margin of error. They also ask us to simply print out the contents of a disc, and sometimes the number of pages (and the invoice) shock the client. We’re typically asked to provide an estimate for how many pages are on a disc, but this is very difficult. Let us explain in more detail.


Let’s start with the easy one: paper. Generally speaking, a regular paper box full of office files holds between 2,000 and 3,000 sheets of paper. When we estimate, we are most likely using 2,500 impressions as a starting point (an impression is considered 1 page). However, here are a few factors that may change that number:

  1. Are there any double-sided pages? Your 2,500 pages will turn into 5,000 pages quickly if they are all double sided. Maybe only 25% of the pages are double sided; if so, add another 600 or 700 pages to your estimate.
  2. Are there folders and binders in the box? The more folders and binders that are taking up space, the fewer pages that are likely inside that box. The same goes for staples, paperclips, and binder clips—the more there are, the less room there is for paper.
  3. Have receipts and small pieces of paper? Those tiny sheets of paper can add pages in a hurry. We have seen boxes literally full of receipts that equate to tens of thousands of pages at time.

If your documents aren’t in a box, use a measurement to help: every inch of standard office (or litigation) documents is about 200 pages (double-sided page rule from above applies). A typical file cabinet drawer is about 5,000 pages as well.

So how does that translate into data size? Great question. In general, you can assume scanned images will be about 12,000 pages per GB; however, there are factors that can lower that volume:

  1. Color images take up much more space than black and white pages.
  2. Large-format pages are much larger than a typical 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper.
  3. Heavy-coverage pages take up more space than light-coverage pages. For example, a printed email that only takes up a third of the printed page would be far smaller than a picture that takes up the full page. Pixels on the page equal data when scanned.

All that being said, data storage today is very cheap. A CD will hold about 4 or 5 boxes of paper and a DVD will hold in the range of 20 to 25 boxes. But who remembers the last time they even put a CD or DVD in their computer? A hard drive that holds 2 TB (and may only cost about $100) will hold 8,000 to 10,000 boxes of paper.  

For this question, paper is the easy medium. Check out our blog, How Many Pages are in a GB? to learn how much more difficult it is to answer this same question for electronic documents.

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