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This is my first puzzle, so I hope this is good enough for everyone...

Sometimes I am automatically forgotten but...

I always have a purpose.

I can help out in a hostile situation.

Firstly, I'll get you nowhere fast.

On the flip side, I can even take you backwards.

What am I?

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My attempt at this puzzle is:

Gear

Updated after OP improvements - not limited to vehicle gears due to later clues


Sometimes I am automatically forgotten

A vehicle may have automatic gears so the driver can forget which gear they are in.

I always have a purpose

Gear is equipment that is used for a particular purpose.

I can help out in a hostile situation

Riot gear in a hostile situation (OP's help)

Original - Adverse weather conditions call for appropriate clothing (gear). Also can be weapons.

Firstly, I'll get you nowhere fast

First gear in a car won’t get you anywhere fast

On the flip side, I can even take you backwards.

In reverse gear you go backwards

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  • $\begingroup$ ... just as good as my answer - +1 $\endgroup$ – abligh Jul 4 '16 at 12:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Tom Correct! The hostile situation was specifically meant to infer riot gear just to include a hint unrelated to cars, it was meant to be 'gear' in general so not just specifically vehicle gears. $\endgroup$ – hypern Jul 4 '16 at 12:43
  • $\begingroup$ @hypern - that's super - and it's an improvement on my answer - thanks for this better reasoning - good puzz! $\endgroup$ – Tom Jul 4 '16 at 12:55
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I think it is

Backups

because

Sometimes I am automatically forgotten but...
Rotation of backups can automatically delete them after time

I always have a purpose.
Who takes backups for no purpose?

I can help out in a hostile situation.
After a hostile attack on a computer, often the best course is to restore from backup

Firstly, I'll get you nowhere fast.
Restoring backups is slow

On the flip side, I can even take you backwards.
'Time-machine' type restore, takes you back to an earlier position in time

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  • $\begingroup$ I like this answer - especially suits helping out in a hostile situation very nicely along with the other clues! $\endgroup$ – Tom Jul 4 '16 at 12:35
  • $\begingroup$ @abligh This is a great answer, but its not the one I had in mind $\endgroup$ – hypern Jul 4 '16 at 12:40

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