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A hard fork is when a single cryptocurrency splits in two. It occurs when a cryptocurrency’s existing code is changed, resulting in both an old and new version.
This is more commonly used when wanting to make a major change to the protocol.
Examples of this is when Ethereum hard forked and created a new Ethereum, and the previous but not the ‘original’ was called Ethereum Classic. Other examples of this is Bitcoin Cash, and the other Bitcoin forks.