Index Scan retrieves all the rows from the table. Index Seek retrieves selective rows from the table.
An scan or table scan is when SQL Server has to scan the data or index pages to find the appropriate records. A seek uses the index to pinpoint the records that are needed to satisfy the query.
Since a scan touches every row in the table, whether or not it qualifies, the cost is proportional to the total number of rows in the table. Thus, a scan is an efficient strategy if the table is small or if most of the rows qualify for the predicate.
Since a seek only touches rows that qualify and pages that contain these qualifying rows, the cost is proportional to the number of qualifying rows and pages rather than to the total number of rows in the table.
Index Scan vs Index Seek
Index Scan is nothing but scanning on the data pages from the first page to the last page. If there is an index on a table, and if the query is touching a larger amount of data, which means the query is retrieving more than 50 percent or 90 percent of the data, and then the optimizer would just scan all the data pages to retrieve the data rows. If there is no index, then you might see a Table Scan (Index Scan) in the execution plan.
Index seeks are generally preferred for the highly selective queries. What that means is that the query is just requesting a fewer number of rows or just retrieving the other 10 (some documents says 15 percent) of the rows of the table.
In general query optimizer tries to use an Index Seek which means that the optimizer has found a useful index to retrieve recordset. But if it is not able to do so either because there is no index or no useful indexes on the table, then SQL Server has to scan all the records that satisfy the query condition.