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EDICT gives almost the same translation for these two expressions:

出来る限り; できる限り 【​できるかぎり】 (n) as ... as one can

できるだけ 《出来るだけ》 (exp) (uk) as much as one can; as much as possible; if at all possible;

Even the example sentences are almost the same:

私はできる限りあなたの援助をします。 I'll help you as far as I can.
できるだけ多くの本を読みなさい。 Read as many books as you can

What is the difference between the two expressions?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The meaning is the same. If we compare できるだけ and できる限り, できる限り (literally “to the limit one can”) sounds stronger than できるだけ (literally “as much as one can”), so the nuance is slightly different, but not much.

While onteria_’s answer and the answers on Goo to which it links have some points, I think that they are describing the difference between the two phrases bigger than it actually is.

I wrote above “If we compare できるだけ and できる限り, できる限り sounds stronger than できるだけ.” But when we hear one of the phrases, it is rare to compare it to the other phrase which was not used.

I do not buy the argument that できるだけ implies the possibility of cutting corners. Sure, it is true that “depending on the situation, できるだけ sometimes gives the impression of cutting corners,” of course, but that is saying nothing. The same applies to できる限り, and it does not explain any difference between the two phrases.

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3  
...which is a very polite way of saying, "All y'all are just splitting hairs." :) –  Derek Schaab Jun 8 '11 at 20:51

出来る限り: Do whatever it takes. できるだけ: Do what you can.

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Quoting from a "teach me goo" question of the same content:

最大限の度直をするという基本的には同じ意味ですが、「できるかぎり」の方が最大限で最高というか「できるだけ」よりも努力する強さがより大きいです

使い分けは微妙にあります

自分が何かを行う場合は「できるかぎり」の方が強い意志を相手に感じさせるでしょう 「できるだけ」と言うと場合によっては手抜きに感じられる場合もあります

Source: http://oshiete.goo.ne.jp/qa/4891438.html

The general summary is that 「限り」 shows that you're doing the most possible to complete the task, as in "I'll do everything in my power" type of motivation. Whereas in the case of 「だけ」, it has somewhat of a "yeah, I'll do what I can" context, as in you might cut corners.

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4  
I don't agree that できるだけ means you might cut corners; only that できる限り emphasizes that you'll put forth the maximum effort possible. Also, one of the more valuable points from the page you linked was that it's uncommon to use できる限り when asking someone else to do something. できるだけ is less insistent, so it's more appropriate for requests. –  Derek Schaab Jun 8 '11 at 18:24
    
@Derek I actually stand on that, given the phrase 「出来るだけ完成形に近づけるように頑張ります。」. If for example it's a piece of software, I might cut corners to get things done faster, and not write quality code. –  onteria_ Jun 8 '11 at 18:30
    
Well if we get into software, we all know you can only pick two of the triad of speed, price, and quality, but does できるだけ by itself admit to the possibility of cutting corners? I'd be curious to hear a native speaker weigh in on this. –  Derek Schaab Jun 8 '11 at 18:44
    
@Derek I'd agree with you in the case of projects under deadlines, but if I'm writing a hobby project the triad doesn't matter much. Yes, I'd like to hear a native speaker weight in as well. My point was much to the fact of 「出来る限り」 showing utmost effort, so the listener is going to think you're very serious about the result. Whereas 「出来るだけ」 has more of a "I'll do what I can" feeling, and the listener could potentially feel that you're not giving your all, and might not put effort into the process of producing the result. –  onteria_ Jun 8 '11 at 18:49
    
My japanese wife chimed in and said both are as much as you can. However, while dake is not cutting corners, kagiri is like going 110%. –  Mark Hosang Jun 8 '11 at 23:10

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